By Kim Williams, BA
Care Manager Assistant and Manager of Transportation
Falls Prevention Awareness Day is celebrated annually on September 23rd, the first day of fall. This is a purposeful play on words to help make this Awareness Day more memorable! The National Council on Aging hosts the celebration with a wide variety of events to promote awareness throughout the country.
According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. One-third of Americans aged 65+ fall each year. Falls jeopardize seniors’ safety and independence and can create a domino effect on their health and quality of life, not to mention their pocketbook from the resulting medical and care-related expenses.
Furthermore, falls, with or without injury, can also carry a psychological impact. A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression and social isolation.
However, falling is not an inevitable result of aging! The National Council on Aging states that through practical lifestyle adjustments, evidence-based falls prevention programs, and clinical community partnerships, the number of falls among seniors can be substantially reduced.
So how can we make our fall season, and all of our seasons, fall-free?
Begin your fall-prevention plan by making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your concerns and prevention strategies. With your doctor’s approval and oversight, consider the following strategies, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Get some exercise. Lack of exercise can lead to weak legs, thus increasing the chances of falling. Consider gentle exercise activities such as walking, water workouts, and tai chi – which can increase strength and improve balance.
- Be mindful of medications. Some medicines, or combinations of medicines, can have side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness. This can make falling more likely. Having a doctor or pharmacist review all medications can help reduce the chance of risky side effects and drug interactions.
- Keep your vision sharp. Poor vision can make it harder to get around safely. Older adults should have their eyes checked yearly and wear glasses or contacts with the right prescription strength to ensure the best eyesight possible.
- Take proper care of your feet and wear proper shoes. It sounds simple but it can make a big difference. Call your doctor if you have calluses or corns on your feet that need to be removed or any other foot issue as these can affect balance. If you wear loose-fitting shoes because of foot problems, you can also lose your balance. Consider wearing sturdy, non-skid footwear that fits properly. Make sure the heels and soles of your shoes are in good condition. If the heels are worn down or uneven, you may tilt from one side to another which can make you lose your balance along with causing hip and back pain.
- Take care of yourself. Keep your bones strong. Talk to your doctor to be sure you are getting enough Vitamin D and Calcium. If you are weak or dizzy, see your doctor as soon as possible.
- Eliminate hazards at home. About half of all falls happen at home. A home safety check can help identify potential fall hazards that need to be removed or changed, such as tripping hazards, clutter, and poor lighting. Consider removing throw rugs or using double-sided tape to keep throw rugs from slipping. Make sure electrical extension cords are underneath furniture or rugs. Keep items you use often in cabinets that you can reach easily without a step stool. Consider installing grab bars inside and next to your tub or shower and next to your toilet. Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors. Improve the lighting in your home. And lastly, make sure any items left on the ground are not left on stair steps or along any areas in which you walk.
If falls are a concern to you, Geriatric Care Management can provide a home safety evaluation and can connect you with resources that can make your home a safer environment and you less fall-prone.