Did you know that half of all admissions into long-term care facilities are fall related? And that falls are the most common cause of injury in seniors? It may feel like this is an inevitable part of aging, but it doesn’t have to be – most falls are caused by the combined effects of preventable risk factors. So, in the spirit of November being Fall Prevention Month, let’s go over some steps you can take to help prevent slips, trips, and falls, and in turn maintain your healthy and independent lifestyle.
· Exercise is the best way to reduce your risk of falling by maintaining your strength, balance, and flexibility. Improving these mobility factors will help prevent you from tripping, help you recover your balance faster, and give you the strength to catch yourself before suffering a serious fall-related injury. The thought of falling can be scary but it is important to not let it stop you from physical activity because this fear induced movement restriction leads to decreased strength, balance, and flexibility – and all of these are what helps keep us on our feet! So, even though our fear may tell us to stop moving because we might fall, we have to push through this mindset and continue to exercise and stretch. Some easy exercises to practice that help prevent falls are squats, weight shifting, walking, marching, leg raises, and heel toe walking … all exercises that we do right here at AHS!
· Regular vision check-ups are important in preventing trips and falls, not only to keep up to date on your prescription, but to identify any age-related eye diseases that could impair your vision (like cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy). Keeping your eyes healthy will help you navigate through life ‘trip-free’.
· Most falls occur at home performing daily activities, but there are many precautions you can take to reduce hazards and make your home a safer space. Remove clutter and electrical cords to minimize tripping hazards, and make sure you have a clear path from your bedroom to your bathroom. It’s also a good idea to have nightlights in your bedroom, hallways, and bathroom for when you need to get up in the middle of the night. Try to keep the carpets and rugs to a minimum, and if you do have some make sure they’re taped down so the edges don’t stick up and they don’t move underfoot. On that note, it’s a good idea to have non-skid mats in your tub or shower so you’re not stepping in and out of a slippery tub. Keep all of your stairs in good repair, and install hand rails on both sides for support. If you have trouble identifying the edges of the steps try marking them with a non-slip contrasting tape. Also, pets can be underfoot so a brighter collar can be helpful to stay mindful of where they are when you’re walking. Finally, make sure you have properly fitted shoes that aren’t too loose and with soles that aren’t too thick. Lace-ups are a good idea so you can tie them as tightly as you’d like.
· One aspect of fall prevention that may be overlooked is reviewing your medications with your doctor or pharmacist. There are many medications that can increase your risk of falling because of side effects such as dizziness/light-headedness, impaired balance, decreased alertness, and cognitive impairments. Some of the more common medications that are associated with increased fall risk are antidepressants, antihistamines, anticoagulants, corticosteroids, diuretics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, sleep aids, antihypertensives, and ACE inhibitors.
So, think about what you’re currently doing and what you could work on to reduce your risk of falling to help keep you active, healthy, and independent!