By Simona Valanciute
Many things can cause a fall – tripping over a rug, slipping on water, vertigo, muscle weakness, and certain medications to name a few. One in four older adults fall annually according to the National Council on Aging, and falls can result in hip fractures, broken bones, and even head injuries. Additionally, CDC data shows three million seniors annually are treated in emergency departments for a fall injury – making the avoidance of falls a significant priority year round.
From taking care of personal health to seeking physical therapy or conducting a simple home safety check – there are several proven ways to avoid a serious slip or tumble. This Fall Prevention Awareness Week, Sept. 20-24, consider the following tips that can help keep seniors steady as they go about daily routines.
Create a Safe Living Space: Removing clutter in hallways, near doors and essential living areas is the start of a safe home. Conducting a home safety check and addressing additional trip hazards like visible extension cords or floorboards that stick up can also help seniors navigate without fear of falling. Consider resources such as this Safety Checklist from the CDC to find and fix hazards in the home.
Nonslip Products Make All the Difference: How many times has someone gone down because of a slippery rug or sleek porcelain tub? What about on wet floors or because of an icy outdoor step? Regardless of age, these hazards have been the cause of many falls. Nonslip mats, skid-proof rug backings, nonslip treads for outdoor steps, and even nonslip socks can help provide stability.
Shine Bright: Adequate lighting, particularly in hallways, stairwells and bedrooms can help those with weaker or strained eyesight find their way. Consider adding reflective tape to stair steps or calling an electrician to move light switches within reach for extra ease.
Physical Activity for Added Stability: Continued movement helps reduce the risk of falling. Exercises like walking, swimming, tai chi, and more can give seniors added flexibility, strength, and balance. For those unsure of where or how to start, a physical therapist can assist with custom programs and monitor progress.
Chat with Doctors and Caregivers: Address concerns or fears with trusted advisers. Seek the council of doctors to discuss changing medications that may cause dizziness, get properly assessed for custom footwear or report health care issues that may affect your balance. Caregivers may be able to assess the need for handrails in bathrooms or share the benefits of assistive devices such as walkers or personal emergency response systems.
Falls are not a normal part of aging. For the older adult interested in staying strong and independent, there may be senior-related organizations in the local area that can help provide resources or guidance essential to fall prevention. The National Council on Aging offers resources like the Falls Free CheckUp Tool, which are chockfull of additional tips and insight. San Diego Oasis, for instance, also offers low-cost fall prevention classes such as Bone Building Fitness, Tai Chi for Beginners and Progressive Strength, Balance and Flexible Training to help seniors imagine and realize a safer tomorrow. As we recognize Fall Prevention Week, please share these tips with the older adults in your life the help keep them safe.
Simona Valanciute is the President and CEO of San Diego Oasis, an award-winning nonprofit organization serving people age 50 and better, who pursue healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyles, and community service. Learn more at www.sandiegooasis.org.