Fall Prevention

How To Prevent Falls And Reduce Accidents As We Age

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The conditions that affect many seniors can also increase your risks of falling.

Some physical changes and many conditions are a part of aging, it’s not always possible to remove these blocks from your risk tower.

Taking steps to improve balance and strengthen the skeletal system can reduce the risks dramatically.

 

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Learning how these medical conditions lead to falls is the first step towards understanding the risks.

  • Heart disease or CHF.  Heart conditions can cause dizziness, balance problems, muscle weakness and fatigue, even with only slight exertion.  Heart disease is also frequently associated with respiratory difficulties, which can result in many of the same falls-related condition.
  • Had a Stroke.  Strokes often result in muscle weakness, and/or sensory imbalances on one side of the body, which can compromise one’s ability to move about safely.
  • Parkinson’s Disease.  Tremors, stiff aching muscles, and slow limited movement (especially when the person tries to move from a resting position) are all falls risks associated with Parkinson’s.  A person with Parkinson’s disease is likely to take small steps and shuffle with his or her feet close together, bend forward slightly at the waist (stooped posture), and have trouble turning around.  Balance and posture problems may result in frequent falls, especially as the disease progresses.
  • Low Blood Pressure.  Low blood pressure, particularly when rising from a lying or sitting position, is a common cause of falls due to dizziness/or fainting.
  • COPD.  The shortness of breath that is caused by COPD (chronic bronchitis and/or emphysema) can make you feel weak, dizzy or faint, even when you do simple things like get dressed or fix a meal.
  • Diabetes.  Diabetes can cause a loss of feeling in the feet (diabetic neuropathy) which compromises your balance and sense of where obstacles and uneven footing may be a hazard.
  • Arthritis.  The loss of joint flexibility due to arthritis makes it difficult to maintain a safe gait, to avoid potentially dangerous obstacles, and maintain balance.
  • Vision Problems.  A decrease in vision, whether caused by glaucoma and cataracts, or just aging eyes, makes it far more difficult to judge distance and avoid obstacles that could trip you up.  This is naturally a particular concern at night or when in the dark.
  • Mental Confusion.  Mental confusion can increase the chance of a fall since it may be more difficult to determine whether an activity is putting one at greater risk, or it may take longer to respond to a situation where a fall might otherwise be averted.

Medications

Although medicines help you stay well, they may put you at risk for falling.  This is especially true if you are taking several medications several times a day.  There are three reasons why:

  • Some drugs have side effects, and may make you feel dizzy, confused or otherwise less able to prevent a fall.
  • Two or more drugs may interact in a way that produces undesirable side effects.
  • Not following doctor’s orders.  Seniors might do this because they forget, or find their medication schedule too complicated, or are dismayed by the side effects.

Ensuring A Safe Home Environment

Is your home as safe as it can be?

Most falls happen at home where we spend most of our time.  Fact is we get older, items in our home that used to be virtually harmless start to pose a greater risk.  Stairs, bathrooms, dimly lit hallways, a little extra clutter around the house – even pets underfoot can be dangerous.

The good news is most of these home safety hazards can be minimized.  All it takes is some time and attention – and maybe the assistance of a friend or family member- before an unfortunate accident happens.

Learn how making a few simple changes to your home can reduce your risk of falling.

Your Strength & Balance

Some people think the best thing to do if you have fallen, or if you are afraid of falling, is to be less active.  Why take the chance of falling again, right?  Well, research shows that seniors that are less active are more likely to fall, because they lack the strength and balance and they need to resist falls.

This is why health care professions recommend starting a regular exercise routine of any kind – even if you start by taking only a few steps every day.

Exercise may improve your…

  • Strength and stamina.  Giving your heart, lungs and the rest of your cardiovascular system even a modest workout can make a tremendous difference in the way you feel, in your energy level, and they way you go about enjoying life as best as you can.
  • Balance.  When you were very young, you had to learn to balance yourself, and unless you continue to use your balance under safe conditions, this vital skill diminishes.  Balance also helps you keep the mass of your body over your feet, which helps you maintain your stability when moving your weight from one position to another.
  • Gait.  Regain some of the spring in your step, and practice walking (either alone, or with a cane or walker) with a stronger, safer and more fluid gait.
  • Reflexes.  Exercise can make you more responsive and help you react to obstacles in your path and other potential dangers.

Preventing Slip and Fall Accidents

  • Wear shoes with nonskid soles (not house slippers).
  • Be sure your home is well lit so you can see things you might trip over.
  • Use night lights in your bedroom, bathroom, hallways, stairways.
  • Remove throw rugs or fasten them with carpet tape.  Tack down carpet edges
  • Don’t put electrical cords across pathways.
  • Have grab bars put in your bathtub, shower and toilet area.
  • Have handrails put on both sides of stairways.
  • Don’t climb on stools or stepladders.  Get someone else to help with jobs that call for climbing.
  • Don’t wax floors at all, or use a non-skid wax.
  • Have sidewalks and walkways repaired so that surfaces are smooth and even.
  • Have your eyes checked every year for vision changes.
  • Have your hearing checked every two years.
  • Let your doctor know right away if your medicines are making you dizzy or making you lose your balance.
  • If your doctor wants you to use a walker or a cane, learn how to use it, and then use it all the time
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