Reduce Fall Risk for Seniors by Addressing a Senior’s Shuffling Gait

At American, Advocate and Whitsyms In-Home Care, we work hard to reduce fall risk for seniors. One of the most important ways to accomplish this is by paying attention to how an older adult walks. Many older adults adopt a shuffling gait, which can provide a clue into a potential mobility issue.

There are a number of conditions that can cause older adults to shuffle their feet as they walk, including:

  • Joint pain caused by arthritis

  • Side effects of some medications
  • Vision impairment or loss
  • Loss of flexibility in the feet and legs
  • Weakened hip and leg muscles
  • Fear caused by a recent fall
  • General increased fear of falling due to previous falls
  • Ill-fitting shoes or slippers
  • Overall loss of balance
  • An illness such as dementia or Parkinson’s disease

Reducing Fall Risk for Seniors

The slow pace of a shuffling gait may feel like a safer way to get around for some older adults, but it can actually have the opposite effect. If the person has rugs in the home, shuffling could cause them to trip over the edge of a rug or slide on an unsecured mat. Shoes can also catch on the ground while shuffling, causing the senior to trip. People who shuffle their feet often tend to have a narrower stance that offers less balance and support.

Uncovering the reason behind a senior’s change in gait can be challenging, but it is a vital part of fall prevention. If an older loved one has started shuffling their feet when they walk, it is important to schedule a doctor’s appointment to get to the root of the problem.

Review the list above to determine whether one of more of these issues could be affecting your loved one’s gait. Then, request a thorough physical checkup. Once your doctor has determined a cause, recommendations can be made for how to improve the issue, which might include:

  • A change in medication
  • Exercises to improve balance and increase flexibility
  • Use of a walker or cane
  • An updated eyeglass prescription
  • Or other recommendations

According to the National Institute on Aging, 6 out of 10 falls happen at home. Certain home modifications can be made to help prevent falls for those with gait issues. Decreasing fall risks throughout the home is essential for safety. Consider the following tips to create a safer home environment for seniors with gait and mobility issues:

Stairs and Hallways

  • Install secure handrails on both sides of the stairs.
  • Ensure there is proper lighting in stairwells and hallways, with light switches at the top and bottom of stairs and both ends of the hallways.
  • Remove any items from the stairs to reduce tripping hazards.
  • Don’t use throw rugs in hallways.


  • Install grab bars next to toilets and in showers and bathtubs.
  • Use non-skid bath mats in the bathroom.
  • Place grip tape or mats in the bathtub when showering or bathing.
  • Use nightlights to avoid tripping during night time bathroom visits.


  • Use nightlights or have a lamp near the bed to ensure there is light when needed.
  • If rugs are used in a bedroom, use a slip-proof rug mat or double-sided tape to secure them.
  • Keep a flashlight near the bed in case of power outages.
  • Ensure the bedroom floor is clear of clutter.
  • Keep a phone near the bed or wear an emergency call device in case of a fall.

At American, Advocate, and Whitsyms In-Home Care, we offer referred care providers who are skilled at helping seniors with a variety of mobility issues and improving safety in the home. Our services include help with walking, transferring and positioning, range of motion exercises, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, and much more.

Contact us to find out more about how our Florida senior care experts can help the older adults in your life. Reach out to the office nearest you by clicking the links below to get started:

State of Florida License and Registration Numbers: 30211518, 30211651, 30211295, 30211390, 30210978, 30211293, 30211382, 30211504, 30211733, 30211535, 30211531, 30211710, 30211709, 30211045, 5661