Osteoporosis: make your home fall-free

Osteoporosis is known as the silent disease. There are no symptoms to suggest that you have it, except that at some stage, an insignificant bump into something will cause a bone fracture.

Osteoporosis is a disease in which the density of bones and therefore the quality of bones are reduced. Your bones literally become brittle, resulting in bone fractures. Every three seconds, someone somewhere in the world sustains a bone fracture due to osteoporosis.

Treatment of the disease comprises of drug therapy, proper nutrition and supplementation. However, on a practical level, managing the disease means preventing falls causing bone fractures.

Here are a few tips how to adapt your home to prevent falls


  • Floor surfaces need to be non-slip. Waxing your floors might give it a beautiful shine but it will also make it very slippery. A fixed carpet throughout your house is often the best –provided it’s even and not too soft.
  • Wipe spills from the floor immediately after they occur, as you might forget about wet spots later on.
  • Rearrange furniture in your house to clear paths. It will make it easier and safer to move around.
  • Remove any loose carpets from your floor. It’s very easy to trip over one of those.
  • Pick up any toys, shoes or magazines that might be lying around. Wires around the house are often a hazard and needs to be cleared from walking paths.


  • Make sure your house is well lit inside. Improve lighting with brighter bulbs.
  • It is safer to have uniform lighting throughout each room.  


  • Make sure all the stairs are even. Fix any broken or uneven ones.
  • Remove any loose carpets, toys, wires or other clutter from your stairs.
  • At least one side of the stairs should have a handrail.
  • Make sure the stairs are well lit and replace any burnt-out bulbs as soon as possible.
  • If you have a separate light switch for lighting onto your stairs, have an electrician put in a light switch at the top and bottom of the staircase.
  • Consider painting the top edge of the stairs a different colour to make it easier to see.


  • Keep the things you use often on lower shelves at waist level.
  • Have a steady step-stool handy to reach for objects on higher shelves.


  • Remove any loose rugs on your bathroom floor or replace it with non-slip rubber ones.  
  • Place a non-slip mat in your bath and/or shower.
  • Fit handles next to your bath and toilet onto which you can grab if needed.
  • If you use conditioner when washing your hair, rinse your hair as well as the bath/shower surface one extra time to remove any remaining conditioner. It tends to make surfaces more slippery than what they already are.
  • Consider sitting on a plastic chair in the shower instead of getting into and out of a bath.
  • Raise the toilet seat with a toilet seat riser that you can buy from most pharmacies.


  • Make sure the bedroom light is easy to reach from your bed.
  • The path from your bed to the toilet must be well lit.
  • When getting out of bed, rather roll onto one side and then push yourself up instead of trying to sit upright from a supine position which will place more strain on your body.


  • Always wear shoes inside and outside the house. Shoes should be non-slip and sturdy such as training shoes. Walking with slippers or socks will increase chances to fall.
  • Too long hemlines of dresses, pyjamas or trousers will increase chances of falling.
  • Get your eyes tested at least once a year. Poor eyesight will also increase your chances of falling.
  • If you feel dizzy, get up slowly after sitting or lying down. Have your doctor or pharmacist check out any medication you’re taking which might be the cause of dizziness.

Home modifications

Request a home visit from an occupational therapist who will be able to give specialised advise on further home modifications. Visit the Occupational Therapy Association of South Africa (OTASA) website or phone +27  (0)12 362 5457.

(Sources: International Osteoporosis Foundation; National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; Osteoporosis on Health24)

- (By Celeste Vlok, physiotherapist, for Health24, July 2012)

Read more:

Osteoporosis – new breakthroughs

Bone fractures: what you need to know

Osteoporosis and diet


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