One of the most important reasons that falls among older adults are so dangerous is the high risk of serious injury. The National Council on Aging has declared Sept. 23 as “Falls Prevention Awareness Day,” which aims to raise awareness about how to avoid these injuries.
A lot of these injuries can occur to the brain, so there is a high incidence level of traumatic brain injury. Also, a large proportion of older adults who fall experience injuries to their bones — hip fractures, wrist fractures, fractures to elbows and knees.
Research has shown that a majority of the people who fall have a continued fear of falling.
Here are four main items to consider:
Identify vision problems. See your eye doctor at least once a year to make sure prescriptions are up to date, and to monitor for eye diseases or other problems. If your glasses are not the correct prescription, your vision is going to be off. You’re not going to see as well as you normally would, which can lead to falls.
Make your home safer. Installing devices such as grab bars is a great safety precaution to prevent falls. These could be installed anywhere—along the walls of hallways, in the bathroom or next to the bed. When older adults start to lose their balance and grow wary of falling, they tend to lean toward the wall and walk along the wall. If they would fall, they could try their best to grab onto that bar and pull themselves back up to get to a telephone or to safety. The bars can also be a source of stability.
Assess your medications. As people age, their doctors could place them on multiple medications. Just being aware of what medicines you’re on and the side effects can prevent a lot of issues, including fall prevention. If a medication side effect is dizziness or disorientation, perhaps there’s a different drug you can take that has the same benefits but has less side effects.
Exercise to improve your strength, balance and mobility. Exercise is a huge component of fall prevention as inactivity leads to weakness and an increased risk of falling. Through exercise that improves strength, balance and flexibility, we can increase the likelihood that our bodies are physically able to withstand a fall, help us recover from a fall, and more importantly, prevent falling. Also, with exercise often comes confidence and less fear of falling.
The Meadowlark Extension District offers an eight-week Stay Strong, Stay Healthy program. If you would like more information about this course, please contact your local Extension Office.