America has three major housing issues for seniors: affordability, physical accessibility, and access to medical care and other services. There is a need for creative solutions to housing.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports one out of five senior falls causes a serious injury like a broken bone or head trauma. Injuries of this sort can make life difficult for an older person to do everyday activities or live on their own. Half of the time, when a senior falls, it goes unreported to their doctor, and the person is likely to become fearful, cutting back on their activities. Not reporting a fall creates a vicious cycle. Fearfulness leads to less activity, making a senior weaker, which increases their chance of falling. Right At Home provides ten tips to reduce the risk of a senior falls. These tips are science-based, and seniors should try to implement them in their daily lives.
The first tip is to talk with your physician about your risk factors. You may have existing health conditions such as hearing and vision loss, arthritis, osteoporosis, or cognition problems, which raise the risk of falls. If you are honest with your doctor about your fall history, they can implement strategies to lower your risks. Every fall matters and should be addressed. Falling just once doubles the likelihood of falling again. Keeping quiet about a fall stops you from receiving personalized prevention advice.
You will need to get enough exercise of the right type. When visiting your doctor, ask for a customized exercise program. Activities will likely include endurance building, muscle strengthening, and increasing flexibility, and improving balance. Even if gyms, recreation, and senior centers are closed due to COVID-19, you can work out at home with little need for equipment. There are also practical ways of improving your activity levels through gardening, house cleaning, and dancing about the house to some inspirational music.
If you have balance problems, get specific help. The vestibular system of the inner ear is crucial to your sense of balance. When you have vestibular dysfunctions, the likelihood of you falling increases. Many vestibular problems are treatable, which will improve balance. Your doctor may also prescribe a virtual balance class that uses special activities and exercises like tai chi, which will enhance proprioception, which is your sense of position. Also, make sure your shoes are properly fitted. Incorrect shoe size, width, or shoe type affects balance and stability.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends that you or a family member conduct a fall-prevention in-home inspection. The advent of the coronavirus pandemic keeps people in their homes more than ever, so it is time to identify any fall hazards. Remove clutter and improve the lighting throughout your home. If necessary, have grab bars installed in the bathroom or on entry stairs in the garage or other key areas. Always keep clear pathways to walk throughout your home.
Routinely have your doctor review all of your medications. Although the prescription and over-the-counter drugs you take help you manage your health conditions, mixing them can produce dangerous side-effects. Dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion are all typical side effects of mixing medications. Bring a complete list of every medication and supplement you take to your doctor or your pharmacist. If you start a new drug, be wary of any side effects, and report them immediately to your doctor.
Make sure to have routine hearing and vision exams. Ears provide you with important information about the environment around you that helps to prevent falls. If you have hearing aids, use them, and have them calibrated often. The same holds for eyeglasses; keep your lens prescription up to date and wear them. If you wear bi or trifocals or progressive lenses, inquire if a second, single-vision lens pair of glasses would make your walking safer.
Eat a diet rich in foods that help prevent falling. The proper nutrients promote bone and muscle strength. You will often need to up your intake of calcium, protein, and vitamin D. Maintain a healthy weight through a nutritious diet plan your doctor prescribes for you. Be honest about how much alcohol you drink. If you drink, limit your intake as too much alcohol substantially increases your risk of falling. The same holds true in states where medical and recreational marijuana are legal. Talk to your doctor about your intake habits.
If you use walking aids, do so properly. Mobility devices like canes, walkers, and more can help you maintain your stability and avoid falls if used correctly. How you position your hands and use mobility devices is crucial. If you are unsure about your device, have a physical therapist, or other medical professionals recommend, properly fit, and train you in its safe use. If you think you would benefit from a walking aid, make an appointment with a reputable medical group to get one.
Avoid walking if you feel distracted. Whether you are in unfamiliar surroundings or in your own home, being distracted often leads to falls. If you think about something else while navigating stairs, it is extremely dangerous and can lead to slips and falls. In the digital world of today, your smartphone may be the main culprit of your walking distraction. Sit down to take a phone call or text. Do not walk around a store, home, street, or sidewalk engaging with your smartphone when you should focus solely on walking. No phone call or message is worth a fall. Get somewhere safe and then interact with your smartphone.
If you do not think you can properly equip and de-clutter your home, or exercise safely in it, add home care as part of your fall prevention strategy. Right At Home and other caregiver groups can enhance walking safety in your home, provide transportation or run errands for you, provide appropriate care for seniors with cognitive issues, and create an extra measure of protection for you in your daily life. Being a confident and active senior, getting the help you need can keep you from unwanted falls.
These safety tips to prevent falls are easy to implement. Every year three million older Americans seek treatment at a hospital after they have fallen. Tragically, more than 27 thousand of them will die because of their fall injuries. Thousands more will experience disabilities leading to a loss of independence. The effects of falling are often life-changing or life-threatening for seniors. Put into practice these and other safety measures to keep you on your feet.