The statistics are startling – every year, a quarter of Americans age 65 and older fall. Falls are the leading cause of injuries for seniors and every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. While it may seem inevitable every senior will fall – the truth is, falls are not a normal part of aging and most falls can be prevented.
In honor of the 10th annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day, here are 10 steps to share with older adults to help prevent falls.
- Stay active. Regular physical activity builds strength, and improves flexibility and balance, which are key to preventing falls. Ask your doctor what exercises are best for you.
- Enroll in an evidence-based fall prevention program. Several programs have been proven to help older adults reduce their risk of falling. Consult your health care provider about which program is right for you.
- Get your eyes and ears checked. Vision and hearing change as we age. Regular eye and ear exams can detect and help correct any issues that may contribute to falls.
- Review medications with your doctor or pharmacist. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs, or the combination of certain medications, can affect balance and coordination. Also, people who take four or more prescription drugs are at a greater risk of falling.
- Talk with your doctor. Certain health conditions increase your risk of falling. A fall can also be a sign of a new medical problem or that a treatment for a chronic condition needs to be adjusted.
- Eat a balanced diet. A vitamin D deficiency, for example, is a risk factor for falls. Talk with your health care provider or a nutritionist about your diet and if changes are needed.
- Limit alcohol use. Even a little bit of wine, beer or liquor can affect your balance and reaction time.
- Get a good night’s sleep. You are more likely to fall if you’re sleepy. Seniors need between 7 and 9 hours a sleep a night.
- Wear sensible shoes. Choose properly fitting footwear with low heels and nonskid soles. Avoid wearing only socks, backless shoes, or footwear with thick, heavy soles.
- Use assistive devices appropriately. Canes, walkers and reachers can help prevent falls – if used correctly. Always consult a doctor or physical therapist about which device is right for you and how to properly use one.
These are just some of the steps an older adult can take to prevent a fall. There are also many changes they and their families can make in their home to make it safer. To learn more about potential tripping hazards, download our Reduce Falls at Home infographic.
In addition, many ComForCare/At Your Side Home Care offices provide complimentary in-home safety checks and fall risk assessments. Call 800-886-4044 to see if you qualify.