Falls are the leading cause of injury in adults 65 and older, according to the Mayo Clinic. Falls can be embarrassing or cause injury for anyone but as we age the risk from falls becomes much worse. Some health conditions like arthritis, Parkinson’s, diabetes and dementia, and the medications to treat these disorders, may increase that risk. Family members and caregivers can consider these simple strategies to help protect the people you love.
1. Meet with your doctor.
This sounds simple, right? It is very important to have open and honest communication with your doctor. Ask questions and make sure the doctor is aware of the medications you take, including over the counter pain relievers and supplements. Your doctor can review for side effects and interactions and make recommendations. Discuss any loss of balance or previous falls in detail to help your doctor formulate specific prevention strategies. During this visit your doctor may evaluate your muscle strength, balance and gait as well.
2. Keep moving – safely!
Physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of falling by improving balance, strength and coordination. With your doctor’s approval, consider gentle activities like walking, exercise classes in water and chair yoga. Your doctor may recommend a monitored exercise program under the supervision of a physical therapist. Be sure to wear properly fitted shoes that are comfortable and provide support for all activities. Avoid high heels, slippers, or walking in socks which can contribute to a slip and fall. Another benefit of wearing sensible footwear is that it can help to reduce joint pain.
3. Keep your home safe.
Another simple step with a great deal of benefit is to assess your living space. Everyday items can increase fall risk as we age. To help, we can do simple things like:
· Clear away clutter
· Use non-slip mats in the shower/tub and on the bathroom floor.
· Secure the edges of loose carpets and rugs with double-sided tape where needed.
· Make sure cords and wires are safely tucked behind furniture.
· Store the items you use most within easy reach.
· Remember to keep your home well lit. Use nightlights in the bedroom, bathroom and hallways. Store flashlights in several rooms in case of power outages and consider illuminated light switches.
· Clean spills right away.
4. Use assistive devices.
Be sure to use the cane, walker or any assistive device your doctor may have recommended for you. Other solutions may include a raised toilet seat with armrests, grab bars in the shower, and a hand-held shower nozzle. A shower bench or chair is a simple way to reduce the risk of a fall during your bathroom routine.
Remember that an investment in these simple strategies is an investment in your future and your independence. Discuss these steps with your doctor to get started right away!