Preventing falls among older adults
Journal Staff Report | 5/30/2016, noon
We all want to protect our older family members and help them stay safe, secure, and independent. Knowing how to reduce the risk of falling, a leading cause of injury, is a step toward this goal.
Each year, one in every three adults ages 65 or older falls and 2 million are treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries. And the risk of falling increases with each decade of life. The long-term consequences of fall injuries, such as hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries (TBI), can impact the health and independence of older adults. Thankfully, falls are not an inevitable part of aging. In fact, many falls can be prevented. Everyone can take actions to protect the older adults they care about.
You can play a role in preventing falls. Encourage the older adults in your life to:
• Get some exercise. Lack of exercise can lead to weak legs and this increases the chances of falling. Exercise programs such as Tai Chi can increase strength and improve balance, making falls much less likely.
• Be mindful of medications. Some medicines—or combinations of medicines—can have side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness. This can make falling more likely. Having a doctor or pharmacist review all medications can help reduce the chance of risky side effects and drug interactions.
• Keep their vision sharp. Poor vision can make it harder to get around safely. Older adults should have their eyes checked every year and wear glasses or contact lenses with the right prescription strength to ensure they are seeing clearly.
• Eliminate hazards at home. About half of all falls happen at home. A home safety check can help identify potential fall hazards that need to be removed or changed, such as tripping hazards, clutter, and poor lighting.
Steps for Home Safety
The following checklist can help older adults reduce their risk of falling at home:
• Remove things you can trip over (such as papers, books, clothes, and shoes) from stairs and places where you walk.
• Install handrails and lights on all staircases.
• Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep the rugs from slipping.
• Keep items you use often in cabinets you can reach easily without using a step stool.
• Put grab bars inside and next to the tub or shower and next to your toilet.
• Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
• Improve the lighting in your home. As you get older, you need brighter lights to see well. Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare.
• Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention