January is Fall Prevention Month
Every 18 seconds, and older adult goes to the emergency room because of a fall. The weather outside is frightful. We cannot change winter weather, but we can take measures to prepare and be safe. Fall prevention in the elderly is an ongoing throughout the year. But in winter months, fall prevention warrants special attention.
- Make it a priority to visit with your doctor to discuss your health conditions and the medicines you take that may lead to falling.
- There may be many reasons why a senior takes a fall. Whatever the reason, the effects can be devastating!
- Physical Problems: Bruising, fractures, brain hemorrhage, burns, dehydration, pneumonia and even possible death can occur after a fall.
- Mobility Issues: Reduced activity, loss of muscle tone and stiffer joints all can lead to cycle of decline due to reduced activity.
- Mental Concerns: Depression, loss of confidence, fear and restriction of lifestyle can affect a person’s outlook and ability to be independent.
- Social Problems: The inability to leave home, travel or continue hobbies as well as the potential need for extended rehabilitation or long-term care can leave the senior isolated, alone and dependent.
Fall Prevention Strategies
Annually, slip, trip and fall accidents account for 2.8 million elderly injuries and 27,000 deaths. By following these simple fall prevention steps, seniors can significantly reduce their risk of falling and increase their chances of remaining healthy and engaged in life while enjoying their retirement years to the fullest.”
- Look First! Plan Your Route!
- Plan ahead. Allow enough time to get where you are going. Chances of falling increase when you rush. Take your time. Walk slowly and deliberately. Try to place each foot flat on the ground with each step. It’s OK to ask someone for help if you feel unsafe on slippery paths.
- Look for the safest route to your location, including the paths into buildings. Choose alternate routes when necessary.
- Plan trips around the weather. If you do not need to go out, don’t go out. Wait for the weather and travel conditions to clear.
- Exercise caution when getting into and out of vehicles. Hold on to a door or another person.
Safe Sensible Shoes
- Sturdy shoes that fit properly are best for seniors. Seniors should avoid wearing flip flops, slippers, high heels and backless shoes. Even bare feet or socks can lead to slips and falls, so it’s best to wear shoes as often as possible.
- Wear appropriate footwear for rainy or icy weather. Wear shoes or boots with rough-textured soles that provide good grip.
- Clean your shoes after going inside. Snow and ice can freeze onto the soles of shoes and become treacherous, even indoors.
Clutter! A Common Cause of Trips and Falls
Assess the floor regularly and look for items that could cause a fall. These include electrical cords, pet toys, magazines, shoes, baskets and plants. Even throw rugs can bunch up and cause a fall. Clean up spills immediately. Otherwise, you or someone else could slip on the substance and cause a serious fall.
Move It Or Lose It!
Staying physically active is one of the best things seniors can do to prevent falls.
Many falls are caused by muscle weakness. To combat this do strength-building exercises. Walking, swimming and dancing are exercises that build leg strength while improving coordination and balance. Yoga and tai chi improve balance.
Consider Assistive Devices
If you tend to wobble when you walk, a cane can help. If you have stairs, the rails to assist you. In bathrooms, grab bars are helpful, especially in showers. These are all types of “assistive devices” that can prevent a fall. A doctor might suggest that you or your loved one use a cane or walker to get around more easily. If you do need a cane or walker, make sure that the device is adjusted to the proper height. A physical or occupational therapist can help you with that.
Your doctor may even suggest that you see a physical therapist to assess your balance, gait and range of motion. The therapist can help you develop an exercise plan to help you build muscle strength and increase mobility which will reduce your fall risk. There is no doubt that exercise lessens the risk of falling and is so beneficial to overall health. It even fosters a positive mental attitude.
Learn about other household modifications that could prevent falls. An occupational therapist can help you with modifications in your living areas that will reduce your fall risk. Such things as grab bars, non-slip mats in bathrooms will help. Handrails inside and outside the home are very important. Non-slip treads on outdoor stairways are especially important in snowy or rainy conditions.
Eye and Ear Health
Have you had your vision and hearing checked lately?
Get your eyes and ears checked once a year to address possible fall risk. It’s easy to trip on something you didn’t see and suffer a fall as a result. As we age, our eyes are more susceptible to conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts. Poor depth perception and blurriness may also play a role.
Hearing loss can lead to balance issues and this can make a senior more prone to falling.
Basic Home Safety
- Remove things you can trip over like electrical cords, plants, pet toys, magazines, etc.
- Remove small throw rugs and repair carpeting that has curled edges.
- Do not use step stools.
- Install grab bars in shower or bathroom.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower floor.
- Improve the lighting inside and outside your home, and use a night-light if you get up at night.
- Install handrails on all staircases and use them.
- Wear good, supportive shoes with non-slip soles.
AW Health Care offers a comprehensive home safety assessment. We can come over and review the physical environment of your home. We can also assess your balance and gait for possible fall risk. Call us. (314) 330-7992
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