Take Steps to Reduce Falls in Seniors
Falls Prevention Awareness Day, Sept. 23, provides a great opportunity for seniors and their families to learn about ways to help minimize the chance of a fall, which can lead to serious consequences for many people. In 2013, there were 2.5 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults treated in emergency departments and more than 734,000 of these patients were hospitalized.
As we age, time takes its toll on the bodily systems that keep us balanced and standing upright. For example, sight or hearing loss can affect coordination. Nerves that carry information from the brain to muscles may fray and deteriorate, slowing reaction time and making it more difficult to move away from oncoming pedestrians or adjust to icy patches on a sidewalk. Normal declines in muscle strength and joint flexibility can hinder the ability to stand, walk and rise from chairs.
The American Chiropractic Association offers these suggestions to help reduce the chance of a fall:
Perform a home safety check
At least one-third of all falls involve hazards within the home. Most commonly, people trip over objects on the floor. See the National Council on Aging’s Home Safety Checklist and work with a family member or health care provider to evaluate your home for potential hazards and minimize risk of injury.
Build strength and balance through exercise
Consider a general exercise program that includes activities such as walking, water workouts or tai chi—a gentle exercise that involves slow and graceful dance-like movements. Exercise reduces the risk of falls by improving your strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.
The risk of falling may increase if you take certain prescription medications to treat age-related medical conditions. Many medications have side effects that can affect brain function and lead to dizziness or lightheadedness. Taking multiple medications magnifies the risk, as does combining prescription drugs with alcohol, over-the-counter allergy or sleeping medications, painkillers, or cough suppressants. Ask your prescribing physician to review your medications and reduce your chances of falling by using the lowest effective dosage. Also, discuss the need for walking aids or supports while taking medications that can affect balance.
Have your vision checked
Reduced vision increases risk of falls. Age-related vision diseases, including cataracts and glaucoma, can alter depth perception, visual acuity and susceptibility to glare. These limitations hinder the ability to move safely. It is important to have regular check-ups with your ophthalmologist. Also, regularly clean glasses to improve visibility.