For good reason, falls are a major concern among older adults. Falls are a leading cause of injury in older adults and strategies to lower your risk may protect your quality of life and your ability to remain living safely at home.
As you get older, physical changes and health conditions – and sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions – make falls more likely. To reduce your fall risk, consider making a fall-prevention plan. Begin by talking with your healthcare provider to discuss your risk factors and your ability to safely pursue activities to improve strength and mobility.
Risk factors may include: dizziness, weakness, poor balance, tingling or numbness in legs or feet, low vision, memory loss, and previous falls. What can you do to reduce your risk and improve your safety? These suggestions are a good place to start:
• Remain active. Use a cane/walker if it’s been prescribed to you. Physical activity often goes a long way toward fall prevention. Activities may include walking, water exercise or yoga. A physical therapist can develop a specific exercise program tailored to your limitations and your goals. See your healthcare provider for a referral to a physical therapist.
• Wear sturdy shoes — indoors and outdoors. Floppy slippers and shoes with heels or slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. Avoid stocking feet or walking barefoot. Solid footwear helps with your balance and can reduce joint pain.
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• Know the side effects. Read labels on all the medications you take, or check with your pharmacist or healthcare provider to learn if any of your medicines might make you feel dizzy or tired, making falls more likely. If you have side effects, let your healthcare provider know.
• Make sure halls and walkways are clutter free. Move pet bowls or beds from traffic areas. Secure electrical cords to prevent tripping.
• Keep your spaces well-lit. Use night-lights in hallways and bathrooms. Make sure light switches are easy to reach, and at the bottom and top of any stairs. Always know where your flashlights are, and batteries charged, in case the power goes out.
• Hold the rails. Use stair rails and install grab bars in the bathroom.
• Cut the skids. Avoid scatter rugs. If you have a rug in the bathroom, make sure it has a nonslip backing. Use nonslip strips or a bath mat in the tub or shower.
• Move it where you use it. Keep items you use often – food, dishes, clothes – where you can reach them without using a stool or having to stoop forward.
With a little extra caution and a commitment to staying active, you can have a direct impact on your well-being and lower your risk for slips, trips, and falls.
Laurie McNeil, an Occupational Therapist with RiverStone Health Home Care, can be reached at 651-6500 or email@example.com.