While many of us chuckled when we saw the famous “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial, falling is certainly no laughing matter. Every year, one-third of Americans over the age 65 fall. Twenty to thirty percent of those who fall suffer injuries that reduce their mobility, such as a hip fracture. 50 percent of those who’ve suffered a hip fracture never return to their previous level of independence.
Most falls have multiple causes, and while anyone can fall accidentally at any age, our risk factors increase as we age. While most accidents are not serious, falls are still the leading cause of injury and injury-related death among seniors. Stay safe by following these five tips.
1. Clean Up Your Environment
Your kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, hallways and stairways may be littered with hazards; so to make them safer:
- Move furniture, boxes, plants, cords, and decorative items away from entrances, stairways, and other high traffic areas.
- Remove loose rugs, or secure them with slip-resistant backing.
- Have broken or loose floorboards fixed immediately.
- Clean up spills right away.
- Store frequently used household items where you can easily reach them.
- Use nonslip mats in your bathtub, and install a grab bar if you have difficulty getting in and out.
2. Light up Your Home
Keeping your home brightly lit will help you avoid objects that might make you trip. Always:
- Have nightlights in your bathroom, bedroom, and hallways
- Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs
- Remove obstacles in front of lamps or light switches
- Place lamps by your armchair, couch, and bed.
- Keep a flashlight within easy reach for power shortages.
3. See Your Doctor
Working together with your doctor will help identify situations where you may be at risk for falling. Your doctor can take a comprehensive look at your medications to see if there are potential side effects or interactions that put you at risk.
Your doctor will ask if you’ve experienced any eye or ear problems, which can affect your balance. He will also want to know if you’ve had any dizziness or shortness of breath when walking. Details like these can help your doctor develop specific fall-prevention strategies.
4. Wear the Right Shoes
Wearing sensible shoes is a great way to prevent slips and spills. You will need to:
- Have your feet measured each time you buy shoes.
- Wear sturdy shoes with nonskid soles – but not extra-thick.
- Give up all floppy slippers and shoes with high heels.
- Always keep your laces tightly tied.
After discussing it with your doctor, begin a regular exercise program. Walking, swimming, and other physical activity reduces your risk of falling by improving your strength, balance, flexibility, and coordination.
Multiple studies indicate that exercise, especially programs including balance training, reduce falls among the elderly. If exercise is difficult for you, consider working with a physical therapist. Simple movements will increase your strength and improve your balance.
If necessary, have your doctor refer you to an occupational therapist. He can give you more suggestions on preventing falls and staying safe.