Article - Fall Prevention: Reduce Your Risks
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The other day I overheard a conversation in a restaurant. One gentleman was explaining to the others that "old people don't fall unless they have multiple sclerosis or something." Sorry - but that's just not true. While I could not find statistics that differentiated the rate of falls between seniors and the rest of the population, consider this:
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, falls are the leading cause of injury for older adults. In 2005, 15,800 people 65 and older died from injuries related to unintentional falls; about 1.8 million people 65 and older were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries from falls, and more than 433,000 of these patients were hospitalized (Center for Disease Control (CDC) 2005).
One-half to two-thirds of falls occur in or around the home. According to AARP's Public Policy Institute, 14% of falls took place on stairs or steps, 9% while rising or sitting on a bed, chair or other furniture and 4% took place in the bathroom.
Statistics haven't been collected, but other age groups also experience a significant number of falls. The big difference is in the in the severity of the consequences and the recovery rates. Younger people who take a fall do better, on average, because their overall physical condition is better. They might not even actually fall, because a trip can turn into a jump to stable footing before the fall even occurs. However, in older adults, the ability to compensate for balance loss is diminished. And, probably due to changes in bone density, older women are twice as likely to suffer bone fractures than older men.
Falling may be scary stuff, but according to most geriatric professionals it is preventable. The first thing to do is take care of yourself.
Increase lower body strength and improve your balance through regular physical activity. A daily walk is a good way to keep in shape. Tai chi and yoga are terrific for stretching and strengthening muscles and encouraging balance.
Wear shoes that fit properly. Sometimes those old comfortable shoes or slippers are really too big or worn out, causing your footing to be less secure than it could be.
When possible, leave a hand free when you are carrying something so you can quickly reach out for support.
Don't rush. Allow time to steady yourself when rising from a seated position. Hurrying may also cause you to misjudge corners or steps. Having a phone in more than one room prevents rushing when the phone rings.
If you know you are unsteady on your feet, you might consider using a cane as an aid to keep you balanced. Rollators and walkers provide even more support and have the extra benefit of being able to support a basket or tote bag to carry small items.
Check on your physical changes:
In this era of specialized physicians, it is possible that seniors could find themselves overmedicated. Have a doctor or pharmacist review all the medications you take to reduce side effects and interactions. This review of medications may help to avoid problems.
If you have lost your balance recently and don't know why, visit a physician quickly. The incident could be symptomatic of an inner ear or visual problem. A health care provider should also be checking regularly for chronic conditions, such as Parkinson's or a cognitive impairment.
Bone density loss should be monitored and possibly prevented, particularly for women.
Annual eye exams can reveal treatable conditions or the need for new prescriptions.
Fall prevention habits should become part of your daily routine. Stay strong and rested, keep your home well lit and free of tripping hazards and pay attention to what is around you!
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