Be proactive to beat the odds of falling
Each year, millions of older adults fall, resulting in broken bones, head injuries or worse. Anyone can take a bad fall, but the risk of falling increases with age, along with the severity of the injury. Studies show that seniors take longer to recover from a fall, and falls often result in reduced ability to live independently.
Falls in the home are more frequent for older adults who have difficulty walking without assistance, or who struggle performing daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, cooking and cleaning. Seniors who are more independent are more prone to fall outside.
The good news: falling is not an inevitable part of aging. Falls are largely preventable and there are some easy steps you can take to reduce the risk for you or a loved one.
Tips to help prevent falls outdoors:
• Use a well-fitting cane or walker if needed.
• Wear rubber-soled shoes with good support and good traction.
• Put salt or cat litter on icy sidewalks.
• Monitor changing light conditions throughout the day. Wear sunglasses to reduce glare and try to choose well-lit areas at night.
• Take your time. Walk at your own comfortable pace.
Tips to help prevent falls in the home:
• Keep floors free of clutter.
• Wear low-heeled shoes with good support; don’t walk in socks, stockings or slippers.
• Make sure rugs have skid-proof backs, are tacked to the floor, or remove any unnecessary throw rugs.
• Stairs should be well lit and have rails on both sides.
• Install grab bars on bathroom walls near the tub, shower and toilet.
• Ensure the lighting in your home is consistent–no dark areas and use curtains to reduce glare.
• Keep a cordless phone nearby so it’s easy to answer when it rings and so you can call for help if you do fall.
• Keep the items you use most convenient and accessible, and limit the use of a stepstool. For example, don’t put things you use often on high shelves.
Certain medications can increase your fall risk. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines — both prescription and over-the-counter — to identify medicines that may cause dizziness or drowsiness. Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year to ensure your prescription maximizes your vision.
Finally, exercise regularly to improve your strength and balance. Find something you enjoy; go walking, lift weights, garden or even dance every day. Sign up for a Tai Chi class or ask your doctor for advice on local balance programs or formal physical therapy. There are options for every level of physical ability and it’s never too late to start.
This article originally ran as a post in Allina Health’s Healthy, Set, Go blog. Read more stories like this at allinahealth.org/healthysetgo.