Taking precautions to prevent falling after stroke can help save a life. Falling is the leading cause of accidental home deaths, and they are a major reason for 40% of admissions to nursing homes.
Furthermore, up to 37% of patients fall within the first 6 months after stroke; and up to 73% have fallen one year after a stroke. This means that if steps aren’t taken to prevent falling after stroke, it’s likely to happen.
As they say, prevention is the best cure. We hope this article helps you take preventive action to avoid a fall after stroke.
How to Prevent Falling After Stroke
Below you will find steps to help stroke survivors avoid falling at home. If you need help implementing any of these steps, please ask a caregiver or therapist for assistance. Don’t delay these steps because doing them promptly could save a life or prevent injuries.
Here are some excellent steps to help avoid a fall after a stroke:
1. Improve Leg Mobility
Hemiplegia and hemiparesis (weakness / paralysis on the left or right side) only affect one side of the body. This can cause difficulty with balance, especially if the legs are affected.
If you struggle with leg mobility, try participating in a daily at-home rehabilitation regimen that incorporates leg exercises. This can help improve strength and coordination in your leg muscles, which will improve balance.
2. Improve Balance and Core Strength
Occupational therapists make it a priority to help patients prevent falls after stroke. OTs understand that the activities of daily living (like getting dressed and eating) require you to move around your home. It’s often a great idea to ask your OT for recommendations on how to prevent falling after stroke.
They may recommend balance exercises and core exercises. A stable core is essential for improving balance, as your core muscles help stabilize your entire body. Therefore, balance- and core-focused exercises are great ways to reduce the risk of falling as you move about your daily life.
3. Manage Foot Drop
A possible secondary effect of stroke called foot drop can cause difficulty lifting the front part of your foot. This greatly increases your risk of tripping and falling after stroke.
One way to manage foot drop is with an AFO, which is a brace that holds your foot in place. This can increase safety as you walk around and helps reduce the risk of falling.
However, it’s not the best long-term solution. Most AFOs are a compensation technique that don’t help you regain movement in your foot.
A better treatment involves adding foot drop exercises to your regimen. This will help retrain your brain and improve movement in your foot long-term.
It often works best to use a combination approach of using an AFO whenever you’re moving about your day; and also practicing foot drop exercises daily to help address the root problem too. Your physical therapist should be guiding you on how to treat your foot drop appropriately to maximize recovery and increase safety.
4. Try therapist-approved home therapy equipment
Most stroke survivors participate in outpatient therapy where they exercise alongside a therapist, usually once or twice a week. Most therapists encourage patients to exercise at home between visits to keep recovery going.
A great way to stay motivated at home is to try home therapy equipment like Flint Rehab’s FitMi home therapy. The FitMi system helps target the legs, feet, and core, which all help improve your balance and reduce the risk of falling.
As you read the reviews for FitMi, you’ll see that stroke patients enjoy that it can be used from the comfort of home, and they see incredible results because of it.
5. Make sure your vision is sufficient
Sometimes stroke affects your vision. In these cases, you can develop a condition known as field cuts where you can’t see a portion of your environment. This increases your risk of falling because you can’t clearly navigate your environment. There are many other vision impairments that can occur after a stoke as well, however field cuts are among the most common.
There’s also a condition called hemineglect where stroke patients do not notice things on their affected side. It’s not because they can’t see, but they don’t have the awareness in that area. This can also make it dangerous to navigate your home and increases the risk of falling.
Speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, neuropsychologists, optometrists, and neurologists are all great resources for these types of issues.
6. Make any necessary home modifications
When you return home after stroke, your occupational therapist will send you home with ideas/strategies to modify your home for safety. Sometimes, they may even be able to come to your home and recommend ways to increase safety and prevent falls.
Common recommendations for home modifications include:
- Adding non-slip mats and grab rails to the bath
- Adding a transfer bench to the bath and/or a shower chair to a shower
- Clearing walkways of obstacles
- Raising the height of toilet seats
- Covering cords to avoid tripping
- Removing throw rugs or other floor mats that are a tripping hazard
The bathroom is one of the most common places for falls to occur. Pay close attention to any safety hazards in this area. Small investments in non-slip mats can go a long way.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Stroke recovery often takes a slow pace as stroke survivors work hard to overcome certain secondary effects, like impaired mobility.
While it can be frustrating at times to go slow, taking a steady pace can help prevent falls caused by haste. If there’s something you need to accomplish, but feel unsure if you can do it yourself (like reaching for something up high in the kitchen), it’s best to ask for help.
If you don’t like asking for help because you feel that your caregivers don’t understand your situation, ask them to read our article on 13 things every stroke survivor wished you knew.
Avoiding Falls After a Stroke
Fall prevention should be taken seriously by stroke survivors, caregivers, and family members. Everyone is encouraged to work together to improve safety around the house to reduce the risk of falling.
Prevention is the best cure. Making the effort now can save future unwanted medical bills or assisted living situations. Never hesitate to slow down or ask for help.
And there you have it! By following these 7 steps to prevent falling after stroke, you can greatly improve your safety and well-being.