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Prevent Falls

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The number of adults over 65 years of age who die from unintentional falls continues to increase. About 12 million older adults, approximately 1 in 3, fall each year in the U.S.  Over half of these falls occur in the home.  Every year,  2. 5 million older people are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries including fractured arms, wrists, legs, and hips.   250,000 older folks are hospitalized for hip fractures alone.  In addition, falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.  Falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults but the good news is that many risk factors can be changed or modified to cut the risk for injury.  

According to the CDC, most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors.  Those factors include:

  • Lower body weakness

  • Vitamin D deficiency

  • Difficulties with walking or balance

  • Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants.  (Even some over the counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.)

  • Vision problems

  • Foot pain or poor footwear (high heels, floppy slippers, and shoes with slick soles should be avoided)

  • Home hazards such as broken or uneven steps, throw rugs or clutter than can be tripped over, and no handrails in the stairways or bathrooms.

Lower body weakness

Vitamin D deficiency

Difficulties with walking or balance

Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants.  (Even some over the counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.)

Vision problems

Foot pain or poor footwear (high heels, floppy slippers, and shoes with slick soles should be avoided)

Home hazards such as broken or uneven steps, throw rugs or clutter than can be tripped over, and no handrails in the stairways or bathrooms.

Many falls can be prevented.  Speaking with a physician, making your home safer, and increasing strength and balance can help reduce the risk for a fall.  The Mayo Clinic, CDC, and Harvard Medical School recommend the following:

Talk to Your Doctor

  • Ask your healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for falling.

  • Ask your doctor and pharmacist to review all your medications (prescription and over the counter) to see if any might make you sleepy or dizzy.  

  • Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update glasses as necessary.  

Ask your healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for falling.

Ask your doctor and pharmacist to review all your medications (prescription and over the counter) to see if any might make you sleepy or dizzy.  

Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update glasses as necessary.  

Make Your Home Safer

  • Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords, and phone cords from walkways.

  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks, baskets, and plant stands from high traffic areas.

  • Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing OR simply remove all loose rugs from the home.

  • Repair loose, wooden floors and carpet.

  • Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach.  

  • Install railings on both sides of stair ways and grab bars inside and outside of tubs and showers as well as next to the toilet.

  • Place night lights in bedroom, bathroom, and hallways.

  • Place a lamp within reach of bed for middle of the night needs.

  • Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.

  • Store flashlights in easy to find places in case of power outages.

Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords, and phone cords from walkways.

Move coffee tables, magazine racks, baskets, and plant stands from high traffic areas.

Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing OR simply remove all loose rugs from the home.

Repair loose, wooden floors and carpet.

Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach.  

Install railings on both sides of stair ways and grab bars inside and outside of tubs and showers as well as next to the toilet.

Place night lights in bedroom, bathroom, and hallways.

Place a lamp within reach of bed for middle of the night needs.

Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.

Store flashlights in easy to find places in case of power outages.

Increase Your Strength and Balance

Note:  Consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.  

  • Consider physical therapy for the balance system.

  • Gentle exercises like a pelvic tilt or leg lift can increase strength.  

  • Tai Chi, Silver Sneakers, Matter of Balance, and Yoga help with control and the quality of movement. All three types of exercise help with balance, range of motion, leg and core strength, and reflexes.  Contact 335-4359 for local programs.

  • Ask a physician if a cane or walker would complement your balance and offer more stability.  

Consider physical therapy for the balance system.

Gentle exercises like a pelvic tilt or leg lift can increase strength.  

Tai Chi, Silver Sneakers, Matter of Balance, and Yoga help with control and the quality of movement. All three types of exercise help with balance, range of motion, leg and core strength, and reflexes.  Contact 335-4359 for local programs.

Ask a physician if a cane or walker would complement your balance and offer more stability.  

Locally, the Genesee Valley Health Partnership, the Livingston County Office for the Aging, and the Medical Reserve Corps in cooperation with Noyes Health are sponsoring the 3rd Annual Fall Prevention Workshop on Friday, September 16, 2016 from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm at the Lakeville Training Grounds in Lakeville.  This free event will highlight several fall prevention experts and includes refreshments.  Attendees will learn strategies and skills to prevent falls in the home and connect with local resources and agencies.  Registration is required.  To register, please call Noyes Health Community Outreach Services at 335-4359 or email lifeline@noyeshealth.org.

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville.  If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at lwichtowski@noyeshealth.org or 585-335-4327.  

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