Falling is not a normal part of aging; and most falls can be prevented. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four Americans who are 65+ years old have fallen each year. In addition, every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. Although most falls resulted in non-fatal injuries, it can be fatal. CDC stated that the falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non fatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
What is considered a fall?
"A fall is defined as an event which results in a person coming to rest inadvertently on the ground or floor or other lower level." (World Health Organization: WHO)
A fall, or frequent falls can impact one's quality of life. More and more older adults have fear of falling which lead to going out less often and withdrawing from activities and social engagements. The result is daunting as further physical decline with loss of muscle strength and balance can also increase the risk of falling. Social withdrawal leads to depression, social isolation and feeling of helplessness. Let's break the cycle!
Fall prevention is an important part of staying healthy and independent.
1) Begin your fall prevention plan by making an appointment with your doctor.
* Be ready to discuss medications you are taking. This include making a list of not just prescriptions drugs, but also over the counter medications and any type of supplements. You want to discuss with the doctor any type of side effects, and interactions related to the medications. The doctor may wean or take you off medications that may increase risk of falls. In addition, doctor can recommend optimum time to take the medication. For example, Lasix (generic: Furosemide) is best taken in the morning so it'll decrease frequent bathroom trips in middle of the night or Aricept (generic: Donepezil) is best taken in evening due to its dizziness side effect.
* If you fallen before - write down the details, including when, where and how you fell. Also be prepared to discuss instances when you almost fell but someone grabbed a hold of you; or you grab a hold of something just in time.
* Be ready to discuss your health conditions. How do you feel when you go from laying to sitting position; or sitting to standing position. Be ready to discuss your dizziness, any pain, numbness on your feet/hands and shortness of breath. This will give your doctor an insight to your progression of your health condition and recommend fall prevention strategies.
2) Participate in physical activities with your doctor's permission. It doesn't need to be strenuous exercises. Your goal is to keep on using the muscles so that you will improve strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. In addition, if you are not able to keep moving using gentle exercises (Tai Chi, Yoga, water aerobics, etc), the doctor may make a referral out to physical therapist to create custom exercises so that you can improve balance, coordination, muscle strength and gait.
3) Make sure to evaluate your physical environment that can contribute to falls.
* Are you wearing sensible shoes or non-slip socks when you ambulate?
* Declutter your home. Get rid of those newspaper from last week, and make sure cords are removed from the walkways.
* Store things within easy reach so that you need not to go up a step-ladder.
4) Instill safety measures in your home.
* Bathroom with non-skid mats, steady shower chair and grab bars in shower or tub
* Use raised toilet set
* Secure all throw rugs (much safer if you remove them all together).
* Place night lights in bedroom, bathroom, hallways, etc.
5) Get referral from the doctor for Occupational therapist who can help you brainstorm ideas for fall prevention tips related to activities of daily living; and Physical therapist can perform home-safety assessment/recommendation.
Folks at SPECTRUM Seniors can be your great resource. We empower you with information so that you can better invest in the fall prevention measures which is a significant investment in your independence.