Another common physical effect of aging is that your bones, joints and muscles may not be quite what they used to be. Your bones could shrink in size and density, and your muscles might become weaker and less flexible. All together, these factors could put you at an increased risk of falling.
Falls are no laughing matter for seniors. According to one study, from 2007 to 2016, the rate of death from falls among persons aged 65 and older in the United States increased by approximately 31%, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that each year about 3 million people are treated in emergency rooms for a fall injury.
Kim Elliott, Brookdale’s Senior Vice President of Clinical Services, is leading the charge to help prevent falls in our communities. “Our number one priority is resident health and safety, and helping prevent falls is one of the best ways we can support that mission,” she says. “That’s why we have developed a leading falls management program based on our own clinical expertise along with recommendations from the CDC.”
What does that look like in practice? The CDC recommends taking four complementary approaches to reducing the risk of a fall: talking to your doctor, exercising, having regular eye exams, and implementing environmental safety precautions around the house. These four factors could work together to help keep you upright and out of the hospital.
1. Talk to your doctor. Your doctor or primary care physician should always be your first stop when you start working toward a health goal like maintaining balance or reducing your fall risk. Your doctor may provide you with specific actions and activities based on your unique situation, and he or she may refer you to specialists if needed. Additionally, your doctor can review your medications to be on the watch for any potential interactions that could result in dizziness, vertigo or other contributors to loss of balance. “Don’t wait for things to start going wrong before you bring them up with your doctor,” Kim says. “Be proactive. If you’re concerned that weakness or a loss of strength that could lead to a fall, ask your doctor if he or she would recommend physical therapy to improve your strength.”
2. Exercise. After you’ve talked with your doctor and gotten his or her recommendation, consider using regular exercise to maintain or improve your muscle strength and coordination. But don’t assume that your activities of daily life will give you enough of a workout. “There’s a saying that a goal without a plan is just a wish. When I talk to seniors about exercise, I remind them that they need to make a detailed plan then stick to it. Normal or routine movement is not enough,” Kim says. Especially at the beginning of an exercise regimen, consider exercise that focuses on slow and gentle movements. The Mayo Clinic recommends activities such as walking, water workouts or tai chi to help build strength and flexibility while also working on your balance and coordination.
3. Get regular eye exams. As mentioned above, it is typical to have our eyes change as we age. Regular eye exams can not only help you stay ahead of eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts, they can also help you ensure that your glasses are the appropriate strength for your needs. Having the right prescription could help you see a tripping hazard in time to avoid it rather than taking a nasty spill.
4. Remove fall risks from your home. Poor lighting, a crumpled-up rug, a grandchild’s toy left in a hallway, a wet bathroom floor … any of these environmental factors could possibly contribute to a fall. You can help make your home safer by removing trip hazards from walkways, installing grab bars in the bathroom and improving the lighting in your stairways, among other things. “Be aware of your furniture setup, and make sure that you have plenty of clear, open paths for walking. Furniture that’s too big for your room or having too much furniture in a room could make navigating much more difficult, which increases your fall risk,” says Kim.
In addition to the four CDC recommendations, Kim suggests that seniors and those serving them take time to think through additional fall risks that might not be obvious at first glance. “Pets are the perfect example. They can make lovely companions, but so many people hurt themselves tripping over a dog or getting tangled in a leash. Another common culprit are shoes that are poorly fitted, have slippery soles or have untied laces. One of the easiest things a person can do to reduce their fall risk is to wear comfortable, well-fitted shoes with nonskid soles.”
Kim says, “If you’re not careful and you don’t think about fall prevention, you could be setting yourself up for trouble. A fall will really impact your life. And small actions like these can go a long way toward preventing negative outcomes.”
The above content is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before beginning any exercise or fitness program or acting on any content on this website, especially if you have a medical condition. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on our site.
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