One of every four Americans over the age of 65 falls every year, according to the
National Council on Aging (NCOA). Additionally, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal
injuries for older Americans. The 10th annual
Falls Prevention Awareness Day was observed on Sept. 22—the first day of fall. While the 22nd is dedicated to fall prevention awareness, any day is a good day to learn
how to prevent falls and what to do if you or a loved one falls.
Fall Prevention For Older Adults
According to the NCOA, an older adult is seen in the emergency room for
a fall-related injury
every 11 seconds. The best way to prevent these injuries is to prevent the falls that cause them.
Find a good balance and exercise program. Staying active can go a long way in preventing falls. With your doctor’s OK, consider
activities like walking, water workouts, or
tai chi. These exercises can improve strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility.
Talk to your doctor. Your doctor can assess your risk of falling. Make sure you mention previous
falls and times where you almost fell. These details may help your doctor
identify the best
fall prevention plan for you.
Regularly review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist.
Some medicines can increase the risk of falling. Make sure you take these only as prescribed.
A doctor may consider weaning you off medications that make you tired
or affect your thinking.
Get annual vision
and hearing checkups. Your eyes and ears are key to keeping you on your feet.
Keep your home safe. Make sure that your walkways are clear of cords, newspapers, and boxes.
Pay special attention to high-traffic areas and move furniture and plant
stands from areas where you frequently walk. Secure or remove loose rugs
and repair loose floorboards. Make sure you clean up spills immediately.
Add nonslip mats, or a seat, to your bathtub or shower.
Talk to your family. They can support you and help you take steps to stay safe.
Mind your shoes. Wearing sensible shoes is another simple way to prevent a dangerous fall.
Certain footwear like high heels, floppy slippers, and shoes with slick
soles can be a fall hazard. Walking in socks or stockings is another hazard.
Instead, wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles. Not only
can proper footwear prevent falls, but they can also reduce joint pain.
Use assistive devices. Canes or walkers can help keep you steady. Also, think about installing
handrails for both sides of stairways, nonslip treads for hardwood steps,
and grab bars for the bathtub or shower. If you are concerned about the
cost, remember that an investment in prevention is an investment in your
independence and continued health and safety at home.
Fall Prevention For A Loved One
If you have an elderly parent or friend, you probably know how important
it is to keep them safe from a fall. These are a few steps you can take
to help them prevent falls.
Discuss their health conditions and their recent checkups. Ensuring that they have the most current vision prescription and are using
glasses as advised is important.
Know their medications. Encourage them to talk to their doctor if they are experiencing worrisome
side effects. Also, beware of over-the-counter medicines that contain
sleep aids, which can lead to dizziness and balance issues.
Pay attention. Notice if they seem unsteady, have trouble walking or getting up from
a chair, or if they’re holding onto walls, furniture, or someone
else when they walk. These may be signs that extra fall prevention steps
need to be taken.
Do a walk-through safety assessment of their home. Is there enough lighting in the house? Are stair rails secure? Are there
grab bars in the shower and near the toilet? Also, make sure that tripping
hazards are removed and there are clear walking paths. There are
modifications that can be made in the home to prevent falls.
What To Do If You Fall
Try not to panic; remaining calm will help you assess the situation. The
best course of action depends on whether you are hurt and whether you
can get up without help.
Check for injuries. This is the first thing you should do after a fall. If you’re not
hurt, try to get up. If you’re hurt or unable to get up, call for
help and keep warm.
Get up if you can. If you’re not hurt and you feel well enough, try your best to
get up safely. The best way to get up will differ from person to person, but use these
tips as a guide.
- Roll onto your side, and then slowly pull yourself up so you are on your
hands and knees.
- Crawl toward a sturdy object, such as a solid chair or the stairs.
- Using the object, support your weight with your hands and slide one foot
forward so it’s flat on the floor. Your other knee should remain
on the floor.
- Pushing up from your arms and legs, slowly rise to your feet or to a sitting position.
- Rest for a few minutes.
Call for help. If you’re hurt, getting up could make your injury worse. To call
for help, use an alarm if you have one. Try shouting or banging on a wall
to attract your neighbor’s attention. If you can get to a phone,
call a friend or family member, or 911.
Keep warm. It’s important to stay warm after calling for help so you don’t develop
hypothermia. To keep warm:
- Move onto a soft surface, such as a carpet. Hard surfaces take longer to warm up.
- Reach for an item nearby to cover yourself, such as a blanket or article
- Move away from drafty areas, like doors.
- Keep your body moving.
While falls are common for older adults, they can happen to anyone. There
are many steps you can take to ensure that you or your loved ones stay
on their feet. Some of these solutions are inexpensive or easily installed,
and are invaluable protection from falls. There’s never a better
time to review these fall prevention tips so you and your loved ones can
stay safe, healthy, and independent.