More than a 3rd of people over 65 will fall each year. Fractures are the most serious health consequence of falls. Up to 25 percent of hip fracture patients die within the first year. About 11,000 people will die from these falls each year.
Some of the factors that increase the risk of losing your balance are: side effects of medication, nutrition, lack of exercise and hazards in the home.
Let’s start with some of the hazards in your home and the easy steps to correct them.
- Throw rugs: the number one item that seniors slip on and loose their balance. Get rid of them. If you must have them make sure they are slip resistant or use double face tape to secure them to the floor. If you use slip resistant rugs, check the backing regularly. Rubber backing can wear away.
- Electrical/phone cords: do not use extension cords, if you have to rearrange your furniture so that lamps, tv’s and appliances have easy access to outlets. Tape down your cords to reduce the chance of tripping on them.
- Lighting: have night lights, they are not just for children. Replace your existing wall switches with a “glow switch”.
- Check your vision. Make sure the glasses you’re wearing are correct for your eyes. When you wear new glasses, especially bi or tri- focals, you will need an adjustment period.
- Shoes/socks: make sure you buy shoes with non-slip soles. Lace up and velcro fastenings will give you more support than slip ons. Try to avoid wearing only socks, especially when climbing stairs.
- Install hand rails and grab bars. If you are remodeling, make sure to incorporate these in your plans. You may not need them now, plan for the future.
- Speaking of grab bars, your bathtub. Make sure you have a no slip mat. You can buy a portable grab rail, that fits over the edge of your tub.
- Don’t stand on chairs or boxes to reach upper cabinets. Store things within easy reach.
- Be cautious when walking on wet surfaces both inside and out. This is a good time to use a walking assistance device.
- Wipe up spills quickly. Do not wax your floors.
- Before you get out of bed, sit on the edge for a moment to prevent dizziness.
- When you are walking outside stay on the pathways.
What do you do if you fall?
Don’t panic. Assess the situation and determine if you are hurt. If you have neck pain or if you feel an electric shock sensation go down your arms or legs try to move as little as possible until help arrives.
Otherwise slide or crawl along the floor to the nearest couch or chair and try to slide into it or use it to get up. If you can’t get up, call for help. If you are alone, crawl slowly to the telephone and call 911 for help or press your safety care button.
One last suggestion, I know we have all seen the commercials with the catch phrase, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”. This is going to happen to many of you at some point in your lives. A medical alert program is a good idea especially if you live alone.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid or to embarrassed to ask for help. There are many organizations and resources out there. Start with your county office on aging. Call your town offices. Speak to your doctor, your clergy, a friend.
Exercise can help you keep your balance and decrease muscle weakness thus eliminating falls.