In California alone, 1.3 million older adults experience an injury due to falling. Over time, people may feel unsteady when walking due to changes in physical abilities such as vision, hearing, sensation and balance. If you or a loved one is experiencing these changes, falls can be prevented! Start with the following steps:
The first step is to talk with a health professional about getting a risk assessment for falling. Some of the health factors that can contribute to falls are osteoporosis and taking multiple medications. Your doctor can:
• Review your history of falling and all medications you take
• Evaluate your gait and balance
• Examine your vision
• Evaluate the strength and function of your legs
After the risk assessment, you and your family can talk about what factors can be modified to reduce your risk.
Balance and Mobility
Studies show that balance, flexibility, and strength training not only improve mobility but also reduce the risk of falling. Thirty-five percent of people over the age of 65 do not participate in any leisure physical activity. This lack of exercise makes it harder for individuals to recover after a fall. There are many creative and low-impact forms of physical activity for fall prevention, such as tai chi. Ask your doctor what types of activity would be best for you.
Environmental Modification at Home
The environment can present many hazards. Many older adults fall in the bathtub or on steps. Making changes at home to reduce clutter, improve lighting, and install handrails in the shower or tub can dramatically reduce the risk of falling.
Tips for Preventing Falls
1. Exercise regularly. It’s important that the exercise increase leg strength and improve balance and gradually become more challenging.
2. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review medicines – both prescription and over-the-counter – to identify medicine with side effects and interactions that may cause dizziness or drowsiness.
3. Have your vision checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update eyeglasses to maximize vision.
4. Make home safety improvements by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding stair railings, and improving lighting.
5. Get adequate calcium and vitamin D in your diet and get screened and treated for osteoporosis.
The most effective way to prevent fall injuries such as hip fractures is to combine exercise with other fall prevention strategies.
Adapted from the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence website: www.stopfalls.org, and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: www.cdc.gov.
The information included in this article is for educational purposes only, and is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Get professional treatment if any injury is severe. A severe injury means having an obvious fracture or dislocation of a joint, prolonged swelling, or prolonged or severe pain.