Preventing falls so you can remain at home
People fall all the time. According to the CDC, one out of three older adults (those aged 65 or older) falls each year. I remember one memorable fall while riding in the woods in my thirties that I swear shook the trees around me. The difference between that fall and a fall decades later is that aside from being stiff from that fall, I had no other issues. Falls are the leading cause of people over the age of 65 ending up in the nursing home. That’s not to say that you can’t fall at a fairly young age and seriously hurt yourself. It is to say that the danger increases as you age that you will do so. The added challenge is that as you age, you increase the number of reasons for falling. Everything from decreased vision to shakier balance to stiffer joints increases the odds that you will fall and that that fall or the next one will cause you serious injury. Here’s an article about what one senior residential facility is doing to prevent falls and how the residents of that facility are reacting.
You don’t have to live in a senior facility to take steps to avoid falls. The article above has some suggestions but here are some for the home.
- Remove clutter from high traffic areas. That includes books, cords, and furniture.
- Eliminate throw rugs or use non-slip rugs.
- Increase lighting in all rooms.
- Wear proper footwear when you go outside.
- Install handrails and grab bars in hallways, on stairways and in bathrooms.
- Arrange items that you use often so that they are easily accessible. If you need to use a step stool be sure to use one with a bar to hold on to.
- Put in a nightlight between the bedroom and the bathroom.
Consider hiring an occupational therapist to take a tour of your home and make specific recommendations for your needs. If you feel that you’re mobility is shaky, Medicare will pay for an occupational therapist to help you prevent future falls so make sure that you have that conversation with your doctor.
Finally, there are things you can do for yourself to protect you from falls regardless of where you are.
- Exercise regularly. Most senior centers, community centers and YMCAs offer senior exercise classes that focus on balance and flexibility.
- Make an appointment with your doctor. Many medications affect balance. Have your doctor review all of your medications and supplements to make sure that their side effects do not include increasing your risk of falls.
- Keep a record of your falls including where you fell, when you fell and how you fell and let your doctor know about them.
- Get your vision checked regularly. Vision often becomes impaired as we age, often yellowing or becoming blurring. Not being able to see where you are going accurately can impair your ability to avoid stumbling or falling situations.
- If your doctor recommends assistive devices such as walkers or canes, use them.
As we age, falling threatens our independence, our health and finally even our lives. Remember that falls are largely preventable. They are not a natural part of aging and we can all do something to prevent them.