We all know of or have a parent, a grandparent or a loved one who isn’t so steady on their feet anymore. The truth is, approximately one-third of all people over the age of 65 fall each year, and half of people over age 80 fall at least once a year.
Falls among older adults are the leading cause of non-fatal trauma, accounting for 2.4 million visits to emergency departments every year. Falls can cause life changing injuries, such as broken bones or head injuries, with about one-in-five falls resulting in these types of serious injuries. And sadly, half of patients admitted to a nursing home to recover from a fall-related injury will never return to independent living.
But there are things that you and your loved ones can do to minimize the risk of falls:
- Exercise regularly. A lack of exercise leads to weakness, specifically decreased core and lower body strength. Exercise maintains or improves strength and improves flexibility and balance to decrease fall risk. Tai Chi is a great way to improve balance and focus – or you could try one of South Shore Hospital’s Community Exercise classes.
- Be mindful of your medications. Talk to your doctor about the side or combined effects of your medications. Certain medications, such as sleeping aides, anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medications, pain relievers, and cold and allergy medications can cause dizziness or lightheadedness which can lead to falls.
- Check your vision consistently. Schedule an annual vision assessment to ensure your prescriptions for glasses are correct as well as detecting symptoms of glaucoma, cataracts, or macular degeneration. These are all disorders of the eyes that are more prevalent in older adults that cause impaired vision and ultimately increased risk for falls.
- Fall proof your home. It’s important to make sure your home is a safe place to move around in, especially for those who have trouble doing so. Install handrails on both sides of a set of stairs. Make sure to keep a bathroom floor dry at all times. Secure rugs with double sided carpet tape and make sure to check all stairs for potential damage. There are many ways to make sure you can fall-proof your house. Check out this checklist from AARP to consider for each room of your house.
These simple steps can prevent both the fall itself and all the injury and illness that can result.
South Shore Health System's Home Care team is hosting a seminar called "Don't Let Concerns About Falling Get You Down" on Thursday, August 31 at Fairingway in South Weymouth. You can register by calling (781) 624-7423.