Few health calamities affecting older people cause as much anxiety as falls and for good reason: They’re a leading cause of emergency room visits, hip fractures and fatal head injuries. On Sept. 22, the National Council on Aging sponsors National Falls Prevention Awareness Day to increase understanding of the consequences of falls and ways to prevent them.
What Can You Do to Avoid Falls?
For people over the age of 65, falls represent the number-one source of injuries — both fatal and nonfatal. They can cause broken bones, head injuries and hip fractures, and they can result in fear and depression for their victims. Be sure to get frequent medical checkups to monitor the health factors that contribute to falls: vision, medications you take that might cause dizziness, your gait and balance, and chronic conditions such as arthritis that can increase your risk.
Regular exercise also can help you reduce your risk of falls. With your doctor’s approval, make physical activity a part of your life; consider water workouts, walking, weight lifting, exercise classes including yoga and tai chi, and sports such as tennis. The Villa at San Mateo offers a fitness center, a seasonally heated pool, fitness classes, and other activities and amenities to help you get moving.
In addition, consider the following steps to ensure your environment is as safe as possible:
- Make sure lighting is adequate throughout your home, and keep flashlights handy in case of power outages.
- Remove hazards that might cause you to trip or slip and fall. Consider moving items like magazine racks, plant stands and coffee tables away from areas you walk through, and secure throw rugs, carpets and any loose floorboards. Use non-slip mats in showers and tubs, and clean up any spills right away.
- Wear sturdy, non-slip shoes that fit you properly.
- Install handrails, raised toilet seats, grab bars, nonslip treads on stairs, and other assistive devices as needed.
By staying active, checking in with your doctor, and evaluating your environment, you take important steps to avoid falls — and stay healthy.