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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Prevent falls with 6 Easy Steps

Fall Prevention Awareness Day
September 22 is Fall Prevention Awareness Day! Click the image for 6 steps older adults can take to prevent a fall.

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma in older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 percent of adults age 65 and older living in the community, and more than half of all older adults who live in residential care facilities or nursing homes, fall each year.

Fall Prevention Awareness Day is September 22 and this year's campaign theme, Preventing Falls-One Step at a Time, seeks to unite professionals, older adults, caregivers, and family members to raise awareness and prevent falls. 

If you have an aging parent, grandparent, or neighbor in your life, helping them reduce their risk of falling is a great way to help them stay healthy and independent as long as possible. And the good news is, most falls can be prevented. The key is to know where to look. Here are some common factors that can lead to a fall:

  • Balance and gait: As we age, most of us lose some coordination, flexibility, and balance— primarily through inactivity, making it easier to fall. 
  • Vision: In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina—making contrasting edges, tripping hazards, and obstacles harder to see.
  • Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, dehydration or interactions with each other that can lead to a fall.  
  • Environment: Most seniors have lived in their homes for a long time and have never thought about simple modifications that might keep it safer as they age.
  • Chronic conditions: More than 90% of older adults have at least one chronic condition like diabetes, stroke, or arthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling because they result in lost function, inactivity, depression, pain, or multiple medications.    

Here are six easy steps you can take today to help your older loved one reduce their risk of a fall:

  1. Enlist their support in taking simple steps to stay safe.   Ask your older loved one if they’re concerned about falling. Many older adults recognize that falling is a risk, but they believe it won’t happen to them or they won’t get hurt—even if they’ve already fallen in the past. If they’re concerned about falling, dizziness, or balance, suggest that they discuss it with their health care provider who can assess their risk and suggest programs or services that could help.
  2. Discuss their current health conditions. Find out if your older loved one is experiencing any problems with managing their own health. Are they having trouble remembering to take their medications—or are they experiencing side effects? Is it getting more difficult for them to do things they used to do easily? Also make sure they’re taking advantage of all the preventive benefits now offered under Medicare, such as the Annual Wellness visit. Encourage them to speak openly with their health care provider about all of their concerns.
  3. Ask about their last eye checkup. If your older loved one wears glasses, make sure they have a current prescription and they’re using the glasses as advised by their eye doctor.
  4. Notice if they’re holding onto walls, furniture, or someone else when walking or if they appear to have difficulty walking or arising from a chair.  These are all signs that it might be time to see a physical therapist. A trained physical therapist can help your older loved one improve their balance, strength, and gait through exercise. They might also suggest a cane or walker—and provide guidance on how to use these aids.
  5. Talk about their medications.  If your older loved one is having a hard time keeping track of medicines or is experiencing side effects, encourage them to discuss their concerns with their doctor and pharmacist. Suggest that they have their medications reviewed each time they get a new prescription. 
  6. Do a walk-through safety assessment of their home.  There are many simple and inexpensive ways to make a home safer.  Here are some examples:
    • Lighting: Increase lighting throughout the house, especially at the top and bottom of stairs. Ensure that lighting is readily available when getting up in the middle of the night.  
    • Stairs: Make sure there are two secure rails on all stairs.
    • Bathrooms: Install grab bars in the tub/shower and near the toilet. Make sure they’re installed where your older loved one would actually use them. For even greater safety, consider using a shower chair and hand-held shower.

 


For additional information about fall prevention, try these resources:

Help4Seniors Resource Directory

National Council on Aging Fall Prevention Campaign and Tools

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Falls, Older Adults

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Home Assessment Checklist

Sources: National Council on Aging

 

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