Stay Safe Year-Round with These Fall Prevention Tips
The fear of falling is a very real concern for many older adults. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA) one in four seniors falls every year and falls are the “leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people aged 65+.”
A fall can result in a broken wrist, arm, ankle, or hip, or a head injury. But even a fall without a serious injury can have a detrimental effect on an older adult’s state of mind, causing them to become “fearful or depressed, and making it difficult for them to stay active,” says the NCOA.
National Falls Prevention Week is held each year to raise awareness that falls are preventable. During this year’s Falls Prevention Week, September 20-24, take some time to review these tips that can help you or your loved one stay safe as you age.
General Fall Prevention Strategies:
- Discuss your risk factors for falling with your health care provider, especially if you have problems with walking or balance, have had a fall or near-fall, changes in hearing or vision, muscle weakness (particularly in your legs), or problems doing daily activities at home.
- Participate in a balance and exercise program. Many senior centers and other facilities in the North Country offers programs specifically for seniors that build balance, strength, and flexibility.
- Ask your health care provider or pharmacist if any of the medications you take have side effects that put you at increased risk of a fall, such as dizziness, blurred vision, decreased alertness or difficulties with balance.
- Vision problems can affect balance and the ability to walk, making it doubly important that you schedule eye check-ups at least once a year or whenever your vision changes.
- Be sure to use your cane or walker if one has been prescribed for you. They help with balance and stability and allow you to move safely from place to place.
- Keep stairs and walkways clear of clutter.
- Remove throw rugs that can trip you up. Be aware of uneven surfaces, such as thresholds and the transition between carpeting and tile.
- Keep frequently used items, like cooking supplies, nearby so that you don’t have to reach too high or bend too low to reach things that you use frequently.
- Install bright lights, use nightlights, and glow-in-the-dark light switches to help you navigate safely after dark.
- Add grab bars near the toilet and in the shower.
- Install handrails on both sides of the stairs — and be sure to use them.
- Mark the edges of stairs with bright paint or high-contrast strips.
- Clean up spills immediately so that you don’t slip and fall.
- After dark, walk where there is plenty of light so you can see where you are going.
- Watch for holes, cracks and uneven surfaces, as well as fallen leaves and tree roots on sidewalks. Take extra care after a rain, snow or ice storm when surfaces may be slick.
- Use handrails when using the stairs in public places. Always cross the street in a crosswalk, and use curb cuts when available.
- Wear sturdy shoes with firm soles and low heels when walking for exercise. Walking with friends is fun, with the added benefit of alerting each other to potential hazards. If you hesitate to walk on sidewalks or trails where you might encounter hazards, consider walking on the track at a local school or up and down the aisles of a large store, where footing is more stable.
Many falls are preventable and incorporating these simple fall-prevention measures in your life can help keep you independent, mobile, and safe as you age. If you or your loved one lives alone and falling is a concern, consider investing in a medical alert system that can give you peace of mind that help is readily at hand if you take a tumble.
Shannon Lynch is the Executive Director of The Morrison Communities, which includes the Morrison Skilled Nursing Facility, Sartwell Place Assisted Living, Morrison Rehabilitation, and Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care and respite care.
The Morrison Communities is a non-profit 501©(3) charitable community that has been providing quality healthcare to residents of New Hampshire’s North Country since 1903. For more information, go to www.themorrisoncommunities.org.