Kittle: The importance of preventing falls
Falls are the most frequent cause of injury in older adults, and often lead to hospitalization for seniors.
In fact, falls cause more than 90 per cent of all hip fractures in seniors, and 20 per cent of those injured die within a year of the fracture.
Here are some helpful tips from The Mayo Clinic to prevent falls:
Begin your fall-prevention plan by making an appointment with your doctor.
What medications are you taking? Your doctor can review your medications for side effects and interactions that may increase your risk of falling.
Have you fallen before? Write down the details, including when, where and how you fell.
Discuss instances when you almost fell but were caught by someone or managed to grab hold of something just in time.
Details such as these may help your doctor identify specific fall-prevention strategies.
Could your health conditions cause a fall?
Certain eye and ear disorders may increase your risk of falls.
Discuss your health conditions and how comfortable you are when you walk: Do you feel any dizziness, joint pain, numbness or shortness of breath when you walk?
Your doctor may also evaluate your muscle strength, balance and gait.
Consider changing your footwear as part of your fall-prevention plan.
High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall.
So can walking in your stocking feet. Have your feet measured each time you buy shoes, since foot size can change. Buy properly fitting, sturdy shoes with non-skid soles.
Choose lace-up shoes instead of slip-ons, and keep the laces tied.
Remove home hazards—remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways, living room, kitchen, bedroom or bathroom. Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing. Repair loose, wooden floorboards and carpeting. Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach. Use nonslip mats in your bathtub or shower.
Light up your living space—keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see.
Place a lamp within reach of your bed for middle-of-the-night needs, and night lights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways. Make clear paths to light switches that aren’t near room entrances.
Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs. Store flashlights in easy-to-find places.
Use assistive devices—such as hand rails for stairways, nonslip treads for bare-wood steps, a raised toilet seat, grab bars for the shower or tub, a sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down.
Ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist to help brainstorm other fall-prevention strategies.
Some solutions are easily installed and relatively inexpensive; others may require professional help or a larger investment. An investment in fall prevention is an investment in your independence.
And finally, focus on strength training and functional training exercises to improve strength, bone density, balance, agility and coordination. This will reduce fracture risk in the event of a fall, and also allow you to maintain your invaluable health and independence.