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Family Living Focus: Staying Active and Healthy – Tips on Falls Prevention

Research shows that falls are the leading cause of home injury and related deaths in America. On average, nearly 5.1 million Americans are injured each year from falls in and around the home. Older adults are at the greatest risk of suffering from a fall and with nearly 5,000 adults over the age of 65 suffering a fatal fall at home each year, the consequences from falls are much worse for those ages 65 and older.

Caregivers were polled to better understand their home safety perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors of those who provide care for a friend or relative age 60 or older and found that many caregivers don’t know what actions to take to keep older adults safe from falls in the home. Half of the caregivers surveyed (48 percent) reported that their loved one had experienced an injury at home, most commonly due to a fall.

Many of the injuries reported were serious, requiring an emergency room or hospital visit (40 percent) or hospital stay (21 percent). The survey also found the following key falls prevention measures are missing from many homes:

• Secured throw rugs (64 percent),

• Handrails on both sides of the stairways (62 percent),

• Lighting at the top and bottom of the stairs (50 percent), and

• Grab bars in bathtubs and showers (32 percent)

Following are steps to prevent a fall:

Maintaining an Active Lifestyle – Including physical activity in one’s daily routine helps to maintain balance, strength, and flexibility.

Tracking Medications – Consulting with your doctor or pharmacist annually to review all medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) and diet plans can help to reduce the risks of dizziness, weakness and other side effects.

Modifying Your Home – Simple home improvements to reduce the risk of falls include installation of grab bars in bathtubs and shower stalls in the bathroom, removal of throw rugs (or securing them with adhesive tape), installing handrails on both sides of all stairways and using proper lighting around stairs and pathways.

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If you would like more information on “Staying Active and Healthy – Tips on Falls Prevention” feel free to contact Gail Gilman, Family Life Consultant, M.Ed., C.F.C.S. and Professor Emeritus – University of Minnesota at waldn001@umn.edu. Be sure to watch for more Family Living Focus™ information in next week’s paper.

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