As we age, the risk of falling increases, and with it, the risk of fractures. Moreover, after a fall one tends to fall again within six months. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are two most important preventive actions we can take. As we age, however, getting the exercise we need and eating healthy become more difficult. Unfortunately this can lead to poor muscle tone, loss of bone mass and decreased flexibility and muscle strength. All of these factors increase the risk of falling.
Although it is impossible to identify one specific thing that puts you at greater risk of a fall, we can identify specific risk factors that increase the likelihood of a fall and try to prevent them.
Lack of Physical Activity
Causes: Age, injury and not enough time are all easy reasons to skip out on exercise.
Prevention: Actively perform daily activities or chores like house cleaning or light yard work; be careful to always wear the appropriate clothing/shoes for the task. Start a regular exercise routine, on a daily or every other day basis. Visit our web site for further information about the best type of exercise for keeping a good bone health.
Causes: Problems such as cataracts and glaucoma increase with age and can affect a person’s depth perception, reducing overall vision.
Prevention: Schedule regular eye exams, keep eye glasses and contact lenses clean. You can also apply color strips to the first and last steps, or other level changes, in the home to help make them more noticeable. Color strips can also be applied to hand rails to make them more visible.
Hazards in the Home
Causes: Poor lighting, loose railings and unsteady furniture can lead to falls. Tripping over rugs and other decorative items is also a common cause of falls.
Prevention: Walk through your home and identify areas that may be dangerous. Consider a visit from an occupational therapist who can identify problem areas and suggest solutions. Secure all rugs with non-skid tape.
Causes: As we age, we often need additional medications for such conditions as high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, depression, etc. These can sometimes affect balance and mental awareness, and thus increase the risk of falling.
Prevention: Be aware of all common side effects of the medications you take. Discard all expired medications. Limit alcohol use while on any medications. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist about medications, and how, if at all, they can increase your risk of falling.
Other Safety Tips to Help Reduce Your Risk for Falling
- Wear shoes with non-skid soles, not slippers
- Make sure all rooms are well-lit day and night
- Use night lights in hallways and bathrooms
- Tidy up and remove unnecessary clutter
- Make sure a phone is on each level of the home with emergency numbers listed
- Keep all frequently used personal items within easy reach
- Install safety hand rails/grab bars around the bath tub, shower or toilet
- Use non-skid mats inside and outside of the tub
- Install a hand-held shower head or think about possibly using a shower chair
- Carefully use step stools for things out of reach, or ask someone for assistance
- Before rising out of bed, sit for a moment to avoid a sudden drop in blood pressure that can cause dizziness
- Use mobility aides like canes and walkers regularly if they have been recommended for you
- Be sure all stairwells are well lit and have handrails on both sides
- Always remove unnecessary clutter
- Check for cracks or uneven edges of sidewalks, driveways or pavement
- Keep walkways well-lit
- Install hand rails on stairs/steps
- In the winter, be sure to keep walkways shoveled and salted
- Look carefully at floor surfaces in public buildings. Many floors are made of highly polished tile that can be very slippery. When these surfaces are wet they become very slick and dangerous. When floors have carpet runners in place, stay on them whenever possible.