(adapted from the National Council of the Aging)
Did you know that one in four older Americans falls every year? Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for people aged 65 and over. Falls can lead to hip fractures, broken bones and head injuries. And even falling without serious injury can make an older adult anxious or depressed, making it difficult for them to stay active.
The good news about falls is that most of them can be prevented.
Accept that it can happen to you: Many older adults acknowledge that falling is a risk, but they believe that it will not happen to them or that they will not suffer pain ̵
View current health conditions: Problems with remembering medication? Possible side effects? Is it becoming harder to do things that were easy before? Do you take advantage of all preventive benefits that are now offered under Medicare, such as the annual wellness visit?
When did you last undergo an eye check? If you wear glasses, make sure that it is a valid prescription and that you use the glasses as advised by the eye doctor. Remember that using tinted lenses can be dangerous if you go from bright sun to dark buildings and houses. A simple strategy is to change your glasses when you arrive or to stop until the lenses adjust. Bifocals can also be problematic on stairs, so it is important to be careful. For those who already have difficulty seeing, see a visually impaired specialist for ways to get the best out of your eyesight.
How is your mobility? If you hold on to walls, furniture or anyone else while walking or have difficulty walking or getting up from a chair … it is time to go to a physical therapist (PT). A trained physical therapist can improve balance, strength and gait by exercising. You may need a cane or walker – the Pt can help you use these tools. Make sure you follow their advice. Poorly fitting tools can increase the risk of falling.
Check your medication: Do you have trouble keeping up with medication? Experience side effects? Time to talk to your doctor and pharmacist and get medication evaluated every time you receive a new prescription. Remember non-prescription drugs that contain sleeping pills, including painkillers with & # 39; PM & # 39; in their name, can lead to balance problems and dizziness.
Perform a security assessment: There are many simple and inexpensive ways to make a home safer. Consult an occupational therapist for professional assistance. Here are some examples:
Lighting: Increase the lighting throughout the house, especially at the top and bottom of the stairs. Make sure that lighting is available immediately when you get up in the middle of the night.
Stairs: Ensure that there are two safe rails on all stairs.
Bathrooms: Install handles in the bath / shower and near the toilet. Make sure they are installed where you would actually use them. Consider using a shower chair and hand shower.
For more ideas on how to make the house safer, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers a checklist for home assessment in multiple languages. NCOA, the Administration on Aging and the CDC also promote a variety of community-based programs, such as A Matter of Balance, Stepping On and Tai Chi, that can help older adults learn how to reduce their risk of falling. Contact your Area Agency on Aging to find out what is available in your area.