According to the CDC, 33% of adults age 65 or older will experience a fall this year. For older adults, falls can cause very serious injuries like head trauma, internal bleeding, or hip fractures. These slips or tumbles are the leading cause for fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults. Even though a third of older adults experience a fall, less than half of those people will consult their primary care provider about it.
There are a few ways an older adult or senior can prevent falls from happening. What is most important is talking to your primary care provider to review your current medications as well as health conditions that may be affecting your balance or coordination. Providing extensive details on any prescription or over-the-counter medications you are taking will help you and your doctor in the long run.
Your doctor may ask you to take vitamins or other dietary supplements such as calcium or vitamin D to help avoid fractures in the hip. Be careful to wear shoes that are comfortable as well as easy to walk in. They should be the proper size for your feet and should include non-slip tread on the bottom. High heels, loose sandals, or shoes with little or no tread can cause you to fall when you are out walking. Shoes that are lace up with nonskid soles are recommended to avoid falling.
Exercising regularly will also keep your reflexes and balance within your control. Tai Chi classes may help you improve your leg strength and balance. Ask your doctor what physical activity would be best for you, as some sports or classes may not be feasible and could even be dangerous. Swimming or walking in a pool, is another activity that is easy on the joints but also helps improve leg strength.
Some ear and eye conditions can increase the possibility of a person experiencing a fall. Make note of any dizziness or pain you feel when you are walking as well as any numbness or shortness of breath. These details will help you and your doctor create a plan of prevention. If you notice the senior in your life is no longer able to perform a substantial amount of their ADL’s, it could be time to seek professional help.
Since most falls occur at home, preventing in home falls is one of the most crucial parts of fall prevention. Hazardous furniture, rugs or other items around your home can cause a trip or fall. Be sure to remove or properly secure objects such as boxes, space rugs, electrical cords, and phone cords from high traffic areas. Furniture that is close to the ground such as coffee tables, nightstands, or plant stands can cause one to fall. Your bathroom should utilize assistance devices such as hand bars in the shower or tub as well as a seat with arm rests on the toilet. This will make getting in and out of the bathroom much easier. Putting a properly secured rug on tile and bathmat in your tub or shower will also help you fall-proof your home.
Utilize nightlights in your bathroom, hallways, as well as your bedroom to avoid falling in the middle of the night. Illuminating your living space will make getting around at night easier and safer. Make sure that your bed is not too low or too high on the ground to avoid falling out of bed or experiencing trouble getting up. Couches and lounge chairs should also not be too close to the ground, as this may be a hazard when you get up. Install handrails for both sides of the staircase in your home, if needed, and keep your staircase illuminated at night.
Make sure to speak with your primary care provider in regard to what other devices or techniques you can utilize to live a safe, healthier life.
Max Gottlieb works for Senior Planning. Senior Planning is a service designed to find care, apply to benefits, and prepare legal documents.
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