Nearly 30 million falls are recorded every year among seniors, resulting in more than 27,000 deaths. Unfortunately, fall death rates are on the rise, increasing 30 percent between 2007 and 2016. But falling doesn’t have to be an accepted of aging.
You may already be doing balance exercises and making sure you get regular physical activity. But did you know that there are other things you could be doing that do not involve exercise but still can significantly decrease your risk of falling? Here are our top five.
Start a fall prevention plan with your doctor
The first step in preventing falls is scheduling an appointment with your physician. Go over your medications with the doctor to determine whether any of them might be increasing your risk of falling. Also discuss with your doctor all of your health conditions, especially those affecting your lower body, vision or hearing. According to studies, people with mild hearing loss are three times more likely to take a fall. And for each additional 10 decibels of hearing loss, fall risks increase by 140 percent.
Don’t forget to tell your doctor about any recent time you fell or almost fell. These helpful clues can prompt your doctor to run specific diagnostic tests.
Safeguard your home
About 75% of falls occur in or close to the home. Easy ways to lower your chances of falling in your house include decluttering, keeping high-traffic areas clear, using non-slip floor mats and keeping household items within arm’s reach.
The thorough list from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes:
- Keep objects off the stairs.
- Fix loose or uneven steps.
- Keep stairs brightly lit with a light and light switch at both the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Make sure any carpeting is firmly attached to every step, or remove the carpet and attach non-slip rubber treads to the stairs.
- Install sturdy handrails on both sides of the stairs that run the full length of the stairs.
- Eliminate throw rugs.
- Either remove other rugs, too, or use double-sided tape or a non-slip backing so the rugs won’t slip.
- Keep objects off the floor.
- Coil or tape lamp cords, extension cords and other wires next to the wall so you can’t trip over them. Have enough outlets so that the cords don’t have to stretch too far.
- Arrange furniture so that nothing blocks your walking path.
- If you have shelving, keep items on the lower shelves (about waist high) to avoid having to reach. If you must use a step stool, get one that has a bar to hold on to. Never use a chair as a step stool.
- Place a lamp close to the bed within easy reach.
- Install a nightlight so you can see where you’re walking.
- Place a non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips on the floor of the tub or shower.
- If you need support while getting in and out of the tub or up from the toilet, install grab bars next to and inside the tub, as well as next to the toilet.
Assess how you dress
Not only can your house be made safer, but so can what you wear. Avoid wearing very loose clothing that can become tangled when you walk. Choose comfortable, well-fitting shoes with heels no higher than 2 inches; a podiatrist can help ensure you get a perfect fit. At home in casual wear, swap stocking feet for rubber-soled shoes, or at least socks with grips.
Reevaluating your clothing may also mean wearing the right glasses so that you can spot things in your immediate and peripheral vision and maintain depth perception.
Lean on something
If you have mobility issues, using an assistance device can make a world of difference in preventing falls as you age. This includes the bathroom grab bars and stairway on the list above, plus canes and walkers to help you generally get around. A cane or walker can help you keep your balance while standing or going from a position of sitting to standing.
Be mindful of your movements
Sometimes all you need to prevent falls is to slow down. Taking things slowly and paying attention to your surroundings will give you a chance to notice uneven flooring, sidewalk curbs and parking lot obstacles.
Also, be careful when you go from sitting or kneeling to standing. Many people also experience a drop in blood pressure when they stand. This is known as postural hypotension and can lead to dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting. Standing up slowly and deliberately from the couch or from working in your garden can minimize this risk.
Maximize your fall prevention protocol
While you’re doing what you can at home to prevent falls, don’t forget that exercises do help! At Heather Lane, we’ll create a tailored physical therapy program to help you safeguard your balance. Call us today at (720) 507-3962 to schedule your appointment.
Lin, F. R., and Ferrucci, Luigi (2012). Hearing Loss and Falls Among Older Adults in the United States. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(4), 369. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.728
Burbank, Patricia. Fall Prevention: State of the Science. University of Rhode Island College of Nursing. https://health.ri.gov/materialbyothers/fallsprevention/FallPreventionStateOfScience.pdf
Center for Disease Control, Check for Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults, https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/STEADI-Brochure-CheckForSafety-508.pdf