As a senior, you may be concerned about the risk of falling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls cause the majority of fatal and nonfatal injuries to seniors. What’s more, the first fall greatly increases the risk of a second fall within the next six months.
But the fear of taking a spill doesn’t need to keep you from enjoying your daily activities. By eliminating key risk factors, falls can easily be prevented.
Meet With Your Doctor
The first step in developing a fall-prevention strategy is to meet with your physician. During your appointment, you and your doctor can identify areas that can be improved to reduce the risk of falling.
A physical exam may be necessary as well. This will assess your physical strength as well as any illnesses that may increase your fall risks, such as diabetes, vertigo, or arthritis. Most importantly, be sure to tell your doctor if you have fallen before.
Review Your Medications
When you meet with your doctor, bring a list of your current medications and supplements– both prescription and over-the-counter. Make sure the list also includes medications you only take as needed, such as painkillers and cold medicine.
Your doctor or pharmacist can identify the supplements that may cause dizziness or drowsiness, which can contribute to your risk of falling.
Additionally, know that fall risk increases when four or more medications are prescribed, as well as with new prescriptions. Weaning from some medications, such as antidepressants or sedatives, may be advised. Consult your doctor before adding or removing medications from your daily procedure.
Regular exercise– especially exercise aimed at improving balance, coordination, and leg strength –is vital in reducing your risk of falling. Walking, swimming and Tai Chi are great options for older adults.
Weight-bearing exercises, as simple as walking or weight-lifting, build bone strength, and reduce the risk of serious bone fractures if you do take a spill.
Use the Right Accessories
Be sure to wear sensible, properly-fitting shoes. Your shoes should be laced(consider Velcro if you have a hard time bending down) and sturdy, not slip-on. Shoes should be worn inside and outside the home, as bare feet and slippers may further increase your risk of falling. Always check for proper treading. Assistive devices, such as a cane or walker, help keep you steady on your feet. Talk to your doctor about whether a mobility aid would be beneficial for you.
Though it is not a preventative measure, many seniors turn to medical alert devices to ensure that safety is never truly far. Whether it’s worn around the neck or wrist, with the push of a button, an emergency medical contact will be on the line and ready with assistance. Injuries that receive immediate attention will heal exponentially better than those that remain unattended to for hours, so this handy and light accessory can ensure that, if you do fall, the long-term physical (and emotional) damage can be minimized.
Keep Your Eyes Healthy
Age-related eye diseases like glaucoma and cataracts can affect vision and cause you to trip over an unseen pet dish or crack in the sidewalk.
Deteriorating night vision can also create hazards, especially when getting up in the dark for a glass of water or to use the bathroom. Be sure to see your ophthalmologist regularly in order to assess and treat any concerns.
Fall-Proof Your Home
According to Colorado State University, at least one-third of all falls occur in the home. Here are a few simple tips you can follow for at-home safety:
– Reduce clutter and dispose of small throw rugs – or add non-skid mats underneath – to reduce tripping hazards.
– In the winter, keep outside paths clear by asking family or neighbors to shovel the snow and ice.
– Install and grab bars in the bathroom when standing from the bath, shower, or toilet.
– Replace stairs with ramps or check to make sure stairways have secure railings on both sides.
– Install nightlights in hallways, kitchens, and bathrooms. Furthermore, consider placing lights that are motion or sound activated so you don’t need to fumble about for a switch.
So there you have it; some simple steps you can take to make sure that you stay healthy, happy, and upright as you climb into the years.