This week we’re observing Fall Prevention Awareness Week, which is held every year during the first week of fall. This year, the fall equinox was on September 22 at 9:54PM so Fall Prevention Awareness Week is being observed September 22-28!
As we get older, falls become more and more common. This is due to a variety of changes in our bodies and our health – eyesight, bone density, blood pressure, medications, past injuries, and so on.
While falls might not seem like that big of a deal, they are actually the top cause for unintentional injuries, trauma hospital admissions, and even injury-related deaths for adults over 65. Even a ground level fall leads to an increased risk of death in the month following the fall.
Many older adults want to remain in their own home as long as possible – preferably until they die. Even when a fall does not lead to a death, it can cause a decrease in independence and quality of life.
In order to stay in their home as long as possible, it is important for older adults to take measures to prevent falls:
- Take an honest look at your home and what is contributing to falls. Does the furniture need to be rearranged to allow more room to walk in? Does a rug need to moved to a different location? Sometimes just a bit of rearranging is all you need! Make sure all pathways, including stairs are clear. Place frequently used items in easy to reach locations. Mark the edges of the stairs with tape or paint that is easily seen against the stairs’ colors. Keep all your cords tidy, secured, and out of the way.
- Make sure your home is well-lit, inside and out. Put up nightlights if you get up at night.
- Get moving! Work on your strength, flexibility, and balance in physical therapy or classes, such as yoga and tai chi. Talk to your medical professional before starting any program to make sure you find one that is best for you.
- Get your screenings done! Make sure you stay up with your eye doctor appointments or vision screenings, blood sugar checks, bone density screenings, and blood pressure checks.
- Keep your prescription glasses and/or contacts up to date.
- Talk to your doctors or pharmacist about your medications. Make sure all of your doctors have a complete list of ALL of your medications and supplements and their dosage. Find out if any of them could cause dizziness, blurred vision, changes in blood pressure, balance changes, drowsiness, or lightheadedness or if any of your medications could interact with each other.
- Make sure you understand each of your medications and their dosage. Take them only as they are prescribed.
- Avoid drinking alcohol while on medications.
- If you are having trouble with falls, look into a foot exam and/or a gait and balance screening.
- Think about if it is time to use an assistive device – and be honest with yourself! Talk to your loved ones and your medical professionals. Mobility devices help provide support and balance. They can help to reduce pain. And they can increase your safety, confidence, and independence!
- If you use mobility aids or assistive devices, such as a walker or cane, ask a health care provider the proper way to use it. Many times, we are told to use a mobility aid or even given one but are not shown how to properly use them. While it might seem like common sense, many people actually need to adjust them or tweak how they use them!
- Start a neighborhood walking group! Go out when it is light out so that everyone can see. Everyone should be aware of hazards, like tree roots, leaves on the ground, curbs, and uneven ground. Make sure you are wearing sturdy footwear!
- Take an honest look at your footwear. It might be time to get a new pair because of their age and condition or because they no longer meet your needs due to changes in your body.
- Put anti-skid strips in your shower and/or bathtub. You can also install handrails in the shower and near the toilet! Or look into a shower chair.
- Use handrails when walking up or down stairs.
Falls are serious but, thankfully, they are also often preventable! Pick a couple of changes that you can make today!