Falls are the leading cause of injury death among individuals over 65 years of age, according to the CDC. Illnesses, medications and environmental factors can all affect strength and balance contributing to a fall. If someone you love has fallen once, there is data to suggest that 75% of those who fall, do so again within 6 months. Beginning at the age of 63, the number of deaths from falls starts to increase with dramatic increases at the age of 70. But shouldn’t we expect seniors to fall as they age due to balance and strength conditions? In fact, falls are not a normal part of the aging process. They can be prevented.
Assisting Hands has some timely advice to help prevent in-home falls:
First: talk with your doctor about falls and about improving management of any medical conditions including reviewing medication types and amounts with your physician. Take your medications and follow medication dosages closely. Using medication incorrectly may lead to dizziness, so be especially aware of medication changes and talk with your doctor about symptoms. Most importantly, don’t stop medications without consulting your doctor!
Ask your doctor about exercise, vestibular and balance training and increasing physical activity, a good place to start is an evaluation by a Physical Therapist and Audiologist.
Second: Be sure your home is as safe as possible by changing adverse environmental factors.
Take some practical steps such as:
- Wear shoes with nonskid soles (not house slippers or sandals).
- Be sure your home is well lit in the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and stairways so that you can see things you might trip over and use night lights in your bedroom, bathroom, hallways and stairways.
- Remove throw rugs and tack down loose carpet edges.
- Keep your floor clear, and remove electrical cords across pathways.
- Install grab bars in your bathtub, shower and toilet area.
- Install handrails on both sides of stairways.
- Don’t climb on stools and stepladders. Get someone else to help with jobs that call for climbing, such as a caregiver.
- Keep your floor clean of liquids and don’t wax your floors.
Third: Think about home care, especially if you have fallen before and have trouble getting out of bed or up from a chair. You may want to consider an in-home caregiver to help with transfers, climbing and walking (the cost of a caregiver is typically 1/3 the cost of a nursing home.) Or you may want to talk with a Physical Therapist about starting a strengthening program and home safety screen. All of Assisting Hands’ home aides are specially trained in fall prevention through the Fall Prevention Centers of America.
Illnesses, medications and environmental factors can all affect strength and balance contributing to a fall. The best predictor of a future fall is a history of falls. Talk with your doctor, begin exercising with professional guidance and consider hiring a caregiver from Assisting Hands to help with risky tasks.