When you slip and fall as a child, you brush off your knees and hop back up. When you slip and fall as a senior, you’re often not so lucky. According to the National Council of Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries amongst older adults. Many factors contribute to a person’s likelihood of falling, including body weakness, vision problems, vitamin D deficiency, difficulty balancing and walking, certain medications, improper footwear, and environmental hazards, and most falls involve a combination of risk factors (source). Accidents happen, but it’s important to exercise caution every day to reduce your risk of a fall. With our help, you can learn how to prevent slips, trips, and falls that could seriously compromise your health.
How to Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls
Talk to Your Doctor
If you’re frightened of falling and the fear is impacting your daily life, talk to your doctor. Through a routine examination, your doctor can evaluate your risk for conditions that contribute to falling. For example, you may suffer from a vitamin D deficiency or use a medication that impacts your balance. Once an issue is identified, your doctor can help you seek treatment, such as taking vitamin D supplements or switching to another medication. In addition, even if you feel okay after a fall, mention it to your doctor to lessen the likelihood of another fall. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), falling once doubles your chances of falling again.
Increase Your Strength and Balance
As people age, they often suffer from weaker muscles and poor balance, which increase their risk of falling. According to an article by Harvard Health Publishing, it is important to do a combination of the following types of exercise regularly: aerobics, balance exercises, stretching for flexibility, gait and coordination training, and resistance/strength training. Some effective exercise choices include walking, bicycling, climbing stairs, hand weights (or elastic bands, weight machines, etc.), yoga, and tai chi. To ensure your chosen health routine is safe and effective for you specifically, consult your doctor and consider working with a senior fitness instructor.
Schedule an Eye Exam
When is the last time you had your eyes checked? If it’s been over a year, it’s time to schedule an appointment. Remember to update your eyeglasses or contacts if your prescription has changed. In addition, if you wear bifocal or progressive lenses, note that these types of glasses can sometimes make things seem closer or farther away than they actually are, which can increase your risk of tripping on an obstacle. Consider getting a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for when you want to go for a walk or do another outdoor activity that doesn’t require seeing things up close.
Examine Your Home’s Safety
You likely spend most of your time in your home, so take a minute to walk around your house and look for ways you could improve it to prevent falls. First, keep extraneous items off of the floor and tuck away wires so that you don’t trip on them. Next, check that your home has plenty of light in each room and that the light switches are easily accessible. Finally, consider adding tools to assist you around the house. For example, you might benefit from a grab bar inside your shower or next to the toilet. You could also add railings to both sides of all your staircases.
Over 800,000 patients are hospitalized each year due to an injury caused by a fall. By learning how to prevent slips, trips, and falls, you can minimize the likelihood that one of those hospitalizations will be you. Take care out there!
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