Six Ways You Can Help Prevent Falls
Fall Prevention Awareness Day is on September 23, which coincides with the first day of autumn. For seniors, fall prevention is particularly important, as the risk of falling increases as we age. And the consequences of falling also increase as we age – seniors are much more likely than their younger counterparts to experience a hip fracture or traumatic brain injury after a fall. The National Council on Aging reports that every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
According to the National Institutes of Health, some of the major risk factors for falling include:
- Muscle weakness, especially in the legs
- Balance issues and difficulties with walking
- Unsafe footwear, which can lead to foot problems
- Poor vision
- Medications that cause dizziness or drowsiness, or taking too many medications
- Hazards in the home, such as clutter, loose rugs and wet surfaces
The good news is that falls are highly preventable. Here are some tips to keep you or a loved one safe:
Become physically active
Exercise can provide numerous benefits: squats, leg extensions and toe stands can strengthen the legs, providing more support when walking; exercises such as tai chi can help improve balance; and walking can improve strength, balance and endurance. Be sure to check with your physician before starting an exercise routine. If you experience any pain, dizziness or trouble breathing during or after exercise, talk with a doctor, nurse or physical therapist.
Perform a “medication checkup”
Many medications have side effects, which may include dizziness or drowsiness. This can increase your chance of falling. Overmedication is also a problem common in seniors. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist on a regular basis to see if there are alternate medications you can take and to ensure the drugs you’re taking aren’t causing problematic interactions.
Make sure your footwear supports your body
Trade in those high heels for some sneakers with nonskid soles. Around the house, floppy slippers and walking around in stocking feet can cause one to slip on hardwood or tile floors.
Fall-proof your home
Nearly 50 percent of all falls happen in the home. You can help reduce the risk by taking some steps to make the home safer.
- Install handrails in the bathroom, a particularly risky place for falls.
- Put nonskid flooring throughout the house.
- Remove clutter
- Add bright lighting throughout the home including nightlights
Get an annual eye exam
Poor vision increases the likelihood of a fall. Visit your ophthalmologist for a vision test and to check if there are any other issues, like glaucoma or cataracts, which may be causing your problems.
Get some help
Family Home Health has a comprehensive Fall Prevention Program. Its goals include:
- Increase the awareness of fall risk and preventive measures
- Risk reduction through early assessment, intervention, and education
- Identification of fall risk factors through comprehensive screenings
- Individualized care plans to help improve strength, mobility, gait, and balance
- Evaluation of a client’s activities of daily living, goals, and priorities
- Recommend home modifications to support independence
- Consistent monitoring of vital signs, medications and pain management
- Educate on the use of medical equipment
- Conduct vision, hearing and vertigo screenings
- Improved quality of life