Each year 3 million older adults seek treatment at the hospital after a fall. More than 27,000 of them will die as a result of their fall injuries, and many more will experience disabilities that can lead to a loss of independence. Falls are a major health problem according to the CDC.
And while the effects of a fall can be life-changing and life-threatening for seniors, the fear of falling is a serious threat. Sometimes, after a fall or being told by their doctor they are at high risk of falling, older adults will decide it’s best to avoid physical activity. This can lead to loss of stamina and muscle strength … which in turn increases their risk of a fall all the more!
Sometimes families inadvertently play a part in this downward cycle. They urge their loved one to take it easy, always hovering and fretting. Instead, they should help their loved one reduce the risk of fall injury. Fortunately, there are science-based steps older adults can take.
Discuss risk factors with the doctor
Do you have health conditions such as arthritis, vision loss, osteoporosis or memory loss which can raise the risk of falls? What can you do to lower the risk? Be open with your doctor about your fall history. The CDC reports half of seniors injured in a fall don’t tell their doctor about it – but they should. Falling just once doubles the chance of falling again. Keeping quiet about it could mean missing out on some valuable fall prevention advice.
Get enough of the right type exercise
Ask your doctor to “prescribe” an exercise program
for you, which will likely include activities to strengthen muscles, build endurance, increase flexibility and improve balance. There’s an exercise program for almost everyone, no matter what their ability. Gyms, senior centers and recreation centers offer senior exercise classes, though these days, exercises you can do at home may be more practical. Dancing, gardening and house cleaning also provide a workout.
Seek help for balance problems
Some falls are caused by disorders of the vestibular system, located in our inner ear, which is important for our sense of balance. These disorders can often be treated. We can also improve our balance abilities. Ask your doctor about a balance class with special exercises and activities such as tai chi that actually improve proprioception - our sense of position. The wrong shoes can also affect our balance and stability, so have them properly fitted.
Conduct a fall-prevention home inspection
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recently reminded seniors that now is a great time to give their homes a safety inspection – because these days, we are likely spending most of our time at home; so, look around for hazards. Remove clutter that could trip you up. Improve lighting throughout the house, and add grab bars in the bathroom and other key areas. Be sure there is a clear path to walk through the house.
Have your medications reviewed
The drugs we take help us manage health conditions but can also increase our risk for falling. Taken either alone or combined with other drugs, many prescriptions or over-the-counter medica-tions can cause dangerous side effects such as dizziness, confusion and drowsiness. Bring a list of all medications you take to your doctor or pharmacist for review, and report any side effects when starting a new drug,
Have regular vision and hearing exams
Not surprisingly, vision loss is a top factor for falls. In some cases, vision can be improved with eyeglasses. Keep your prescription up to date, and if you wear bifocals or progressive lenses, ask your doctor if a second pair with single-vision lenses might be safer for walking. Our ears also provide a lot of information about the environment around us that can help us avoid falling, so if you have hearing aids, use them.
Eat a fall-fighting diet
Getting the right nutrients promotes muscle and bone strength. Calcium, protein and vitamin D intake are particularly important. Eating well also helps maintain a healthy weight. Talk to your doctor about a healthy eating plan that’s right for you. Be frank about your alcohol intake too. Drinking too much ups the fall risk quite a bit.
Use walking aids properly
Canes, walkers and other mobility devices help many older adults maintain their stability and avoid falls while walking. However, it’s important to use these devices properly. A physical therapist or other professional can recommend an appropriate device, make sure it is properly fitted, and train you in its safe use.
Avoid distracted walking
Many falls happen when seniors aren’t fully aware of their surroundings. Today, the main culprit might be your smartphone. There’s a stereotype of a young person walking along while texting, even in intersections. But experts tell us even older adults are doing it too! Even talking on the phone while walking can distract us. Stop to make that call or wait until later.
Consider adding home care to your fall prevention strategy
For any families, hiring professional in-home care is a way to achieve the above goals. Right at Home caregivers remove clutter, supervise exercise, provide transportation to healthcare appoint-ments, pick up prescriptions, and provide appropriate care for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory loss issues. Today, many fall prevention classes and activities are taking place via videoconferencing. The caregiver can help with that, too! Seniors who might hesitate to be active gain an extra measure of confidence when a professional caregiver is at hand - a great way to break the cycle of falls and fear. Family, too, are more confident knowing their loved one has help nearby. To learn more, visit Right at Home’s fall prevention page where you can download a free Fall Prevention Guide (www.rightathome.net/fall-prevention).
About Right at Home of Longwood/Lake Mary
The Longwood/Lake Mary office of Right at Home is a locally owned and operated franchise office of Right at Home, LLC, serving communities throughout Seminole and Orange counties. For further information please contact Right at Home of Longwood/Lake Mary at http://www.cflhomecare.com, call 321.295.7849, or email email@example.com.