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Keep Seniors Safe by Preventing Falls
Falls are a common cause of injury for elderly people. Fortunately, many of these accidents can be avoided. Learn how to reduce the risks for you and your loved ones so you can enjoy more years of independent living.
Learning the Facts About Falls
1. Get familiar with the statistics. One out of three adults 65 years or older falls each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Up to one third of these accidents cause serious injury including broken hips or head trauma and increase the risk of early death.
2. Recognize your risk factors. The chance of falling increases with age. People with certain conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or high blood pressure are also at higher risk. However, you can control many of the causes by changing your lifestyle and installing simple safety aids in your home.
3. Know how to get up correctly. Even if you do fall, you may be able to minimize the damage by training yourself on how to get up appropriately. If you’re seriously hurt, call for help and remain still. Otherwise, try to fall on your side or buttocks and then rise to a kneeling position from which you can lift yourself onto a chair.
Making Behavioral Changes
1. Get your vision tested. Poor vision can lead to a tumble. Have your eyes checked at least once a year and wear your glasses as directed.
2. Exercise regularly. Tai Chi or yoga will improve your balance. Walking just 30 minutes a day will strengthen your legs.
3. Take care of your bones. Any weight bearing exercise, including walking, will also slow down bone loss. Ensure you get adequate calcium and vitamin D. Talk with your doctor about osteoporosis.
4. Manage your medications. Some drugs cause drowsiness and dizziness. Make sure your doctor and pharmacist know everything you take including prescriptions and over-the-counter products.
5. Slow down. Rushing can be dangerous. Get up slowly if you’ve been sitting or lying down for a while.
6. Dress safely. Look for supportive shoes with thin rubber soles. Keep your bathrobes and pants hemmed.
7. Work through your fears. Seniors who restrict their activities because they are afraid of falling put themselves at greater risk by becoming sedentary. Recruit a loved one or a physical therapist to help you learn to move around safely.
Modifying Your Surroundings
1. Install grab bars in your bathroom. Most injuries occur in the bathroom. Add safety bars next to your toilet. Put them in the shower along with a stool.
2. Improve your lighting. Buy some nightlights. Switch to light bulbs with maximum wattage. Keep a lamp next to your bed. Make sure stairs are well lit from top to bottom.
3. Watch out for slippery floors. Get rid of area rugs or secure them. You can keep them in place with double-sided tape or non-skid mats.
4. Rework your stairs. Stairs can be another area of concern. Handrails need to run the full length of the stairs. Attach carpet firmly. Add rubber treads or reflective tape to uncarpeted stairs.
5. Rearrange your cabinets. Move stuff out of the highest cabinets. If you have to reach for anything, buy a sturdy stool or small A-frame ladder to stand on instead of a chair.
6. Inspect the outside of your home. Falls also happen outdoors. Repair any uneven surfaces. Clear away debris.
If you’re concerned about your risk of falling, talk with your doctor. There are many practical steps seniors and their caregivers can take to prevent falls around the home or outdoors. Few are very expensive or time consuming, either.
Give the ideas above a try and you’re on your way to a healthier, happier life!