For seniors, the odds of falling each year are about one in three. Good odds if you’re looking to win a lottery; not very good odds if you’re a senior or care for a senior and want them to stay safe and healthy. Falls constitute the leading cause of injury and injury-related deaths among older adults.
Fortunately, many falls are preventable by following some common-sense steps. For example:
- To reduce the likelihood of side effects from medications and to maintain overall health, make an appointment to see a physician(s). Have the doctor review all your medications for possible side effects and interactions that could increase the risk of falling. Speak to the doctor about any eye or ear problems that may increase the risk. Discuss questions about balance, numbness, dizziness and joint pain.
- Keep active. It is only through exercise and activity that you will maintain and improve your balance, muscle strength, flexibility and gait. People who are in good shape are less likely to fall.
- Wear sensible shoes. Stay away from such accidents waiting to happen as high heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles that can make you slip, stumble and fall. Avoid shoes with extra-thick soles and choose lace-up shoes instead of slip-ons (and make sure to tie the laces).
- Remove home hazards. Your home is likely to be filled with booby traps. Eliminate the clutter! Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways; secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing; repair loose, wooden floorboards and carpeting; use nonskid floor wax; and use nonslip mats in your bathtub or shower.
- Keep the living space well lit. As you age, less light reaches the back of your eyes where you sense color and motion. So make sure to keep your home and front steps brightly lit with 100-watt bulbs or higher to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. Also, place a lamp near your bed and within easy reach for when you get up at night; consider installing glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches; put night lights in the bedroom, bathroom and hallways; turn on the lights before venturing up or down stairs; and store a flashlight nearby.
- Use assistive devices like a cane or walker, if necessary. You should also consider grab bars mounted inside and outside your shower or bathtub; a raised toilet seat or one with armrests; a sturdy, plastic seat in the shower that will allow you to sit; handrails on both sides of all stairways; and nonslip treads on wooden steps.
Falls are not always preventable. Yet, following these tips can go a long way to limiting the risk.