Fall is a season of change. The temperature gets cooler and the leaves change color, but one thing that never changes throughout each season is the fact that millions of older adults experience a fall every year. It’s no coincidence that the first day of fall is also National Falls Prevention Awareness Day.
One of the most widely-circulated fall risk myths is that falls are a normal part of aging. While it’s true that the risk of falling increases with age, that certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you can take to lower that risk.
Below are six fall prevention tips that will not only help keep you safe, but will also promote your overall health as you age.
1. Take a fall risk assessment.
You may think that you or a loved one will never experience a fall, but a third of older adults fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not only do falls result in 2.5 million emergency room visits annually, but just one fall automatically doubles your risk of falling again. That’s why taking a fall risk assessment is the essential first step in ensuring your safety.
To help you and your loved ones stay safe, our team of experts here at Medical Guardian created our very own Fall Risk Assessment. By answering eight simple questions, you’ll discover your risk of falling, and we’ll match your risk level with the Medical Guardian product that’s right for you. Click on the banner below to take our free Fall Risk Assessment and to learn how you can get yourself or a loved one protected today.
When it comes to fall prevention, exercise is essential for older adults. As we age, our balance, flexibility and coordination worsens and we are more likely to experience lower body weakness. Luckily, there are plenty of strength and balance-boosting exercises that will help you maintain your independence, such as walking, yoga, tai chi and chair exercises. To get the most benefits, incorporate exercise into your daily routine, and alternate between strength and balance exercises to work out every part of your body.
Not only does exercise lower your fall risk by improving your balance, but a recent study revealed that it also helps prevent injuries, which is a key discovery since one out of every five falls results in a serious injury.
3. Have your vision and hearing regularly checked.
Poor vision is another leading cause of elderly falls. As we age, less light is able to reach the retina, which makes tripping hazards and obstacles much harder to see, according to the National Council on Aging. Serious eye diseases, like glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy, also increase your risk of falling over something. To ensure you eyes stay healthy as you age, schedule an eye exam at least once a year.
Although hearing loss is not commonly associated with elderly falls, a recent study by the National Institute of Aging and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that hearing loss triples the risk of falling. Researchers believe this is because hearing loss affects the inner ear’s balance mechanism. Hearing problems are common among older adults, so ask your doctor to perform hearing screenings at all of your appointments.
4. Review your medications with your doctor.
This may surprise you, but some of your medications, whether they are prescriptions or over-the-counter, may be secretly increasing your risk of experiencing a fall. If your medications have dizziness, dehydration and sleepiness listed as side effects, discuss alternative medications with your doctor that will treat your condition without making you more prone to falling.
Depending on the results of your fall risk assessment, you should also speak with your doctor about taking vitamin D supplements with calcium. Vitamin D supplements will strengthen your bones, making you less likely to break any bones or suffer a hip fracture after falling. Of course, you should continue to take medications only as prescribed by your doctor.
5. Fall-proof your home.
As 60 percent of elderly falls happen in the home according to the National Institutes of Health, it’s important that you regularly check for safety hazards within and around your home to prevent accidents:
- Tripping Hazards: Most falls occur from tripping over something. Reorganize and rid each room of any clutter on the floor that could trip you, such as area rugs, electrical cords, books and magazines.
- Bathroom: Due to slippery floors, the bathroom presents several safety hazards for older adults. Attach non-slip mats to the bathroom floor, and install grab bars near the toilet and shower. If you have difficulty getting in and out of the shower, consider investing in a walk-in shower, a shower chair or a tub bench.
- Kitchen: In addition to the bathroom, you should also place non-slip mats in the kitchen since the floor can get slippery. Be sure to clean up any spills right after they happen to prevent falls.
- Stairs: If it’s not possible to have all the essential rooms in your home on one floor, add sturdy handrails to each side of the staircase and non-slip treads on every step. If the steps are carpeted, make sure the carpet is firmly attached.
- Improper Lighting: As we mentioned above, poor vision is one of the leading causes of falls. The best way to combat this, however, is by improving the lighting in your home. Add more lamps, open the curtains during the day and use nightlights so you can safely navigate your home.
6. Ensure your safety with a medical alert system.
By following the fall prevention tips outlined above, you will improve your balance and lower your risk of falling. But even with these precautions, falls can still happen -- anytime and anywhere. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you can get help should you ever need it.
Luckily, help is always just the push of a button away with a Medical Guardian medical alert system. Whether you’re looking for protection at home or on-the-go, we’ve got a product that fits your budget and lifestyle. Most importantly, you’ll never have to worry about being alone should you experience a fall or another emergency.