About 1 out of 3 older adults falls each year, according to the National Institute on Aging. With accidents like that possibly causing broken bones or other major injuries, it’s important to know some fall prevention strategies to help keep yourself safe.
The best way to implement a strategy that works for you is to understand the risk factors and causes of many falls and then using some of the tips we’ll detail below to help reduce the risk.
Fall Risk Factors and Causes
There are a lot of things that can lead to falls.
One of the most common culprits is a decline in physical fitness. It’s common to become less active as you age, so many adults will experience a decrease in muscle strength, loss of bone mass, and decreased balance and flexibility.
Certain medications can also contribute to falls. Many can have side effects like dizziness, drowsiness, and low blood pressure. Combinations of some medicines can also cause the same effect. If you take multiple medications every day, you should speak with your doctor about the possibility of them interacting in a way that could lead to increased fall risk.
Many older adults live with chronic diseases that can contribute to falls. Poor physical health or cognitive impairment caused by things like Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease can leave patients with weak extremities, balance issues, or confused with their surroundings.
When you add in factors such as impaired vision, clutter around the home, loose carpets or rugs, and slick floors, you can see why fall prevention should be top of mind for those 65 and older.
Fall Prevention Tips
Having a fear of falling is fairly common with older adults, but don’t let it keep you from living an active and fulfilling lifestyle. Use these fall prevention strategies to help keep you in good condition
Remove Hazards In The Home
One of your first steps should be to do an assessment of your home. You want to remove anything that could be a tripping hazard.
Look for any kind of clutter you may have laying around. That would be things like magazines or newspapers, extension cords, boxes, or other things that are in walkways.
Moving tables or other furniture in high traffic areas is the next step. Any furniture you need to maneuver around to make your way through the home is something that could cause you to fall. You should take them out or move them into a less-traveled part of the house.
Assess Your Lifestyle
A lot of your risk can be negated just by making some changes to your lifestyle. For example, staying physically active can help improve your strength, balance, and coordination. Doing some simple exercises or even just getting up and walking throughout the day can go a long way.
Skipping out on physical activity because you’re scared of falling can actually make the problem worse. Talk to your doctor to come up with exercise programs that can both help you improve your physical attributes and ease your mind when it comes to fall risk.
You should also limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Even a little bit can impair your balance and reflexes.
Lastly, simply changing your footwear can help, too. You should wear non-skid, rubber-soled shoes with a low heel or a non-skid shoe that laces up and fully supports your feet.
Light Up Your Home
Keeping your home brightly lit can help you avoid falls. You may have some rooms or even just parts of rooms that are a little too dimly lit. Making them brighter can help you clearly see any potential hazards.
Start by adding lamps or putting brighter bulbs in existing lamps where you have any dim spots. Make sure you have a clear path to the light switches in every room of your home.
Additionally, put night lights in your bedroom, the bathrooms, and the hallways. You should have a flashlight in a quickly accessible location in case you experience a power outage.
Use An Assistive Device
If you have balance issues you should look into an assistive device such as a cane or walker. When used properly, these devices can help you keep your balance, provide assistance in traversing stairs, and give you some added security for maneuvering around any obstacles.
Aside from a cane or walker, you should also add grab bars to your shower or bathtub, along with added a non-slip grip to the shower floor.
Talk To Your Doctor
The most important thing for you to do is to talk to your doctor about fall prevention programs and discuss anything that could contribute to a fall.
This is another reason why it’s so important for your provider to be kept updated on every medication you’re taking. With a list of all of your prescription and over-the-counter medicines, your physician can determine if any of those medications could interact negatively and affect your balance or thinking, such as making you dizzy or tired.
Your doctor will also be able to talk about any health conditions you may be dealing with and whether or not they could increase your fall risk. Be sure to keep them up-to-date on any new symptoms you may be experiencing.
Also, let them know if you have fallen before and all of the details that led up to that fall. Talking about times you almost fell down can be helpful, too.
What To Do If You Fall
Despite enacting the best fall prevention strategies, you may still fall down at some point. The important thing if it does happen to you is to remain calm.
Take a minute after you fall to collect your thoughts. Stay on the ground and take a few deep breaths. Before you try to get up, take a second to decide if you are hurt. You may not immediately notice an injury. Calmly giving yourself some time to process what just happened and looking yourself over may reveal an injury you didn’t recognize at first. You don’t want to try to get up immediately and make an injury worse.
If you’re able, slowly roll over onto your side, get up onto your hands and knees, and then get to a chair or something else that can help you get back up. Just pull yourself up into the chair to rest a little longer.
If you’re hurt or can’t get up, ask someone for help or call 911. Try to get into a comfortable position while you wait for assistance. Carrying a cell phone or emergency response system that lets you push a button to alert someone at all times will ensure you’re always able to call for help if you need it.