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You Can’t Put Off The Autumn, But You Can Prevent a Fall

Just Because Leaves Are Falling Doesn’t Mean You Have To

Just Because Leaves Are Falling Doesn’t Mean You Have To

Unless you live in a banana belt surrounded by swaying palm trees, you’ve probably noticed a slight chill in the air and a hint of color on the trees outside. That’s because in the wee hours of last Monday morning, the autumnal equinox launched the official beginning of fall. One by one, the leaves on the deciduous trees will tumble to the ground.

This blog post marks the first installment in a series of safety topics an,d autumn seemed like an appropriate time of year to consider how seniors can avoid a fall of their own

According to a recent survey, one in every four Americans over the age of 65 will suffer a fall this year. As seniors reach their 70s, that number increases to one in three. Those are especially alarming statistics, when you consider that nearly 25% of those falls result in serious injuries, such as broken wrists, hips, ankles, and other bones, Fortunately, there are several precautions to help keep those bones, and self-esteem, intact.

Simple tips to prevent falls

As seniors get older, physical changes and health conditions — and sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions — can make falls more likely A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This social isolation can result in further physical decline, depression and feelings of helplessness.

Get back to enjoying your golden years and consider these simple fall-prevention strategies to keep the fear of falling at bay:

1. Keep moving

Physical activity can go a long way toward fall-prevention. With a doctor’s approval, consider adding activities into your routine such as walking, water workouts, yoga, tai chi or dancing. Such activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility.

“Chair Yoga is a great safe foundation of fitness for seniors,” says Tina Bertelle, Life Enrichment Director at The Clairmont in Austin, Texas. “I am certified as a Chair Yoga instructor, I teach Yoga Flow, and I’m a green belt in Taekwondo. So, I incorporate Tai Chi and different kinds of movements into almost every day of our lives. We segue from peaceful Japanese music for Tai Chi into some Country/Western music to stretch out and keep our bodies moving.

“Residents even have homework to practice their ‘CAT’ and ‘COW’ spell-out poses from the chair. It’s a running joke that I tell them to ‘have a Cow’ every Wednesday.”

The results of movement classes at The Clairmont and other communities have been overwhelmingly positive.

“We have seen residents with low oxygen stats get back to normal,” says Tina, “and people who were not able to move or stretch are now able to touch their toes without pain.”

For those seniors who avoid physical activity because they’re afraid it will make a fall more likely, Tina has just a few words of advice: “Move it or lose it!” she says.

2. Wear sensible shoes

Swapping out footwear can be a practical part of any fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers, and shoes with slick soles can cause slips, stumbles, and falls. Properly fitted, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles are best for preventing falls and can even reduce. joint pain when worn over time.

3. Remove hazards

Take a look around your living area and get rid of unnecessary hazards:

  • Remove boxes, electrical cords, and phone cords from walkways.
  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks, and plantstands from high-traffic areas.
  • Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape or a slip-resistant backing — or remove loose
    rugs entirely.
  • Store clothing, dishes, food, and other necessities within easy reach.
  • Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease, or food.

4. Light up your living space

Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. Also:

  • Place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom, and hallways.
  • Place a lamp within reach of your bed for those middle-of-the-night needs.
  • Make clear paths to light switches that aren’t near room entrances.
  • Replace traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
  • Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.

5. Use assistive devices

If you feel dizzy or wobbly occasionally, consider using a cane or walker. Other assistive devices can help, too. For example:

  • Install grab bars and use nonslip mats in the shower or bathtub.
  • Use a bath seat and a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down.
  • Consider a raised toilet seat or one with armrests.

6. Consult the doctor

If you have serious concerns about falling, it’s a good idea to talk with your health care specialists and check on the following:

  • What medications are you taking? Make a list of your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements, or bring them with you to the appointment. To help with fall prevention, your doctor may consider weaning you off medications that make you tired or affect your thinking.
  • Have you (almost) fallen before? Write down the details, including when, where and how
    you fell. Be prepared to discuss instances when you almost fell but were caught by someone or managed to grab hold of something just in time. Details such as these may help your doctor identify specific fall-prevention strategies.
  • Could your health conditions cause a fall? Certain eye and ear disorders may increase your
    risk of falls, including wearing bifocals. Be prepared to discuss your health conditions and how comfortable you are when you walk — for example, do you feel any dizziness, joint pain, shortness of breath, or numbness in your feet and legs when you walk?

Your doctor may recommend solutions or precautions that may require professional help
or a larger investment. If cost is a concern, remember that an investment in fall- prevention is an investment in independence.

Prevention is the best way to avoid the injuries and other problems related to falls. But
accidents happen despite the best laid plans. In our next installment, we’ll explore what to do if
you or a loved one experiences a serious fall. Until then, stay safe and let the leaves do all the
falling.

First published on Sunshine Retirement Living, September, 2019. Some content was provided by mayoclinic.org and aging.com