Falls. What does that one small word bring to mind? Various road trips to see the leaves changing color? Looking forward to Thanksgiving?
Or memories of EMTs, ERs and hospital stays?
Since it’s estimated that a quarter of Americans 65-pluss experience falls each year, and an older adult ends up in the ER as a result every 11 seconds, the latter is nothing to automatically dismiss. Given that in a couple months it will be Fall Prevention Awareness month, let’s get a little jump start. And remember: Falls are not an acceptable, normal part of the aging process. “I’m just getting older.” is no justification for getting hurt.
There are a lot of resources for obtaining help after a fall, such as various personal emergency response buttons and sensors out there and some are pretty sophisticated. (Think “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” commercials as an example.)
That’s good to know, but here’s a thought: What if we look at preventing a fall in the first place? Obviously, there are no guarantees we’ll not fall sometime — after all, we live in a world of moving parts. Maybe though, we can reduce the risks and that’s a good thing.
There’s a dynamic called “furniture walking” that many people use without even thinking. Leaning on the counter, back of the couch, or the table as they walk by. And for the most part it works, particularly in smaller areas. Not always a good idea though.
Take, for instance in the bathroom. It may “instinctive” to grab the towel bar to transfer from the toilet or bath, but they are usually not the most stable item in the room. Consider grab-bars that are mounted to something solid. There if you need them even if you don’t need them always.
Here’s some points to consider if you feel unsteady:
• Get your doctor involved. Vision and hearing really impact your balance. Meds may need to be reviewed also.
• Exercise. If your current goal is to become an Olympic weight-lifter, you probably already are. However, for most of us considered elders, low impact exercise can increase balance and muscle strength. Yoga, Tai Chi, etc are great options.
• Do a quick survey of your home. Are hallways clear of clutter? Do you have extension cords running across the floor? What about your favorite (loose) throw rugs? Is there adequate lighting for evenings or dark areas? Are your slippers more like ice skates than ones that have some grip?
At various times hospitals and/or senior centers offer free Falls Prevention workshops that dive deeper into detail. Another good resource is the National Council on Aging and search for Falls Prevention. Or, you can simply google the topic. There’s a lot of information out there.
Once you feel safer and more confident, you can go back to associating falls with the aforementioned road trips. Be safe.
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