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Falls Don't Have to Be a Fact of Life

Falls are a major health concern for older adults. Anyone can fall, but with as we age, the risk and likelihood of injury increase. The consequences of a fall for a senior can be life-altering. Independence and quality of life can take a major hit. Hip fractures are the most common injury caused by falls and these injuries are one of the biggest reasons why people are forced to move from their home to an assisted living or long-term care facility.

How do you prevent falls? The first step is to understand what causes falls. There are often many factors involved including a person’s health and environmental conditions. The good news is that there is a lot you can do to lower your risk--or that of an elderly loved one!

What is it about your health that may put you at greater risk of having a fall? Personal risk factors include:

  • Changes in strength, balance and mobility

  • Medications

  • Vision loss

  • Low blood sugar

  • Poor nutrition or dehydration

Your best defense against falls? Engage in physical activity every day. It will help improve your balance and keep you strong. Take a short walk or try Tai Chi. Eat a well-balanced diet, get regular medical check-ups, and have your vision and hearing tested each year. Wear your glasses and hearing aids if you have them and use your walker or cane if you need one. Review all your medications with a pharmacist and ask if any of them can make you dizzy or drowsy.

Environmental factors can also play a role in increasing the risk of a fall. The bathroom and stairs are particularly dangerous. Take a good look around your entire home and be aware of hazards including poor lighting, slippery or uneven floors, and clutter.

Here are fifteen simple things you can do to make your home safe:

  1. Use a rubber mat in the bath and shower.

  2. Install grab bars by the toilet and bath.

  3. Use a raised toilet seat and bath seat if you need them.

  4. Store kitchen supplies in easy-to-reach locations.

  5. Remove throw rugs.

  6. Keep pathways clear and free of clutter.

  7. Tape electrical cords to the baseboard so they are out of the way.

  8. Wipe up spills immediately.

  9. Keep stairs clear.

  10. Fix or install new handrails.

  11. Have good lighting throughout the house and use nightlights in hallways.

  12. Make sure your exterior entrance is well lit.

  13. Store frequently used objects where they can be reached.

  14. Wear non-slip shoes or slippers in the house.

  15. If something is out of reach or requires a step stool, ask someone else to get it for you.

How can you prevent a fall when you leave your house? Don’t be in a hurry! Rushing increases your chances of having a fall so leave lots of time to get to where you are going. Wear proper footwear for the weather and conditions. Lots of ice or snow? Decide if you really must leave the house. Use mobility aids if you need them and don’t try to carry too many bags that can throw you off balance.

Fall prevention begins with you. Take steps today to reduce the risk and stay on your feet!

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