Preventing Falls for those with Low Vision

Preventing Falls for those with Low Vision

Posted under Living With Low Vision, Low Vision Info

There are many factors that contribute to the risk of falls, but vision problems are one of the main contributors. According to the report, Guidelines for Optometrists to Help Prevent Falls in Older Adults, there are predictable risk factors that include, increasing age, being female, gait or imbalance impairment, chronic health conditions like Parkinson’s, diabetes or arthritis, on multiple medications, using sedatives, and having any vision impairment. External or exterior risk factors that are listed in the report include poor lighting, trip hazards like rugs, inappropriate footwear, stairs with no handrails, uneven floors, and poorly designed bathrooms. Often falls that are related to low vision can be prevented by taking certain precautions. Some of them are:


  1.  Managing and correcting one’s vision

Regular eye exams help reduce falls by allowing for smaller changes in one’s eye glass prescriptions.  “…. regular small changes in refractive correction can be made thus avoiding the need for larger changes in correction, which have been shown to lead to increased falls” advises Guidelines for Optometrists to Help Prevent Falls in Older Adults. Older people can find it difficult adapting to their new eyeglasses when there have been major changes in their lens prescription that can lead to distortion, impaired distance awareness and dizziness – all of which increase one’s risk for falling.


  1. Using a white cane to navigate steps, uneven ground and curbs

Stairs, steps, uneven ground and curbs are the most common causes of falls in those with low vision. The loss of depth perception and determining the accuracy of distance is often compromised in those with macular degeneration. With proper training, the use of a white cane can alert one to a dip, an obstacle, an uneven sidewalk, an upcoming curb, or a step up or down.


  1. Increase lighting

Familiarity doesn’t reduce the need for good lighting. Even though one may have lived in his or her home for many years, a missed step by the front or back door can easily happen if there isn’t directed lighting by the stairs to your front door or from the garage to the house. Inside the home put your lights on timers so they automatically come on at dusk. Set up a motion activated light for the bathroom or invest in a smart home system, like Alexa or Google Home and use voice activated lights so they come on whenever you give them a voice command.


  1. Make Stairs and Steps Safer

Use or install if there are no handrails for steps going to your house, the garage, a basement, or a second floor. Place contrasting low vision anti-slip tape on stairs, so they are more visible. Keep stairs clutter free.


  1. Remove Obstacles

Remove rugs or use double-sided tape to secure a large area rug. Be sure there are no electrical cords in an area where one walks. Don’t leave shoes out on the floor. Pathways need to be free of any items on the floor.


By taking some simple precautions and creating a safer environment, you or your loved one can reduce the risk of falls and subsequent serious injury. Get more tips on living well with macular degeneration

Tips on Living Well with AMD


Leslie Degner, RN, BSN