Preventing Falls Among Seniors
Falls are not just the result of getting older. Many falls can be prevented by changing a few things in your lifestyle, around your home, and by adjusting to changes in your life.
You can reduce your chances of falling by doing these things:
1. Begin a regular exercise program. Exercise is one of the most important ways to reduce your chances of falling. It makes your muscles and bones stronger, and helps you feel better. Exercises that improve balance and coordination (like Tai Chi) are the most helpful. Exercise also helps loosen you up so that if something unexpected happens like hitting a wet spot on the floor, you can react better and keep your balance.
Lack of exercise leads to weakness and increases your chances of falling. Muscles must be used and exercised regularly or they don't keep their tone, they get tired faster, and they don't support your body the way it should be supported.
Ask your doctor or health care worker about the best type of exercise program for you. It is also recommended that you work with an exercise program or instructor with experience in working with older people. Programs that are designed for someone in their 20's can be dangerous for someone who is older.
2. Make your home safer.
About half of all falls happen at home. To make your home safer:
- Remove things you can trip over (such as papers, books, clothes, and shoes) from stairs and places where you walk.
- Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep the rugs from slipping.
- Keep items you use often in cabinets you can reach easily without using a step stool.
- Have grab bars put in next to your toilet and in the tub or shower.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
- Improve the lighting in your home. As you get older, you need brighter lights to see well. Lamp shades or frosted bulbs can reduce glare.
- Add night-lights throughout the house. Even though you are very familiar with your house, waking up in the middle of the night can be disorienting and without light, it is very easy to lose your balance.
- Have handrails and lights put in on all staircases. Add handrails throughout the bathroom and in the tub. Standing, sitting, climbing in and out and the potential for a wet floor can cause a loss of balance.
- Wear shoes that give good support and have thin non-slip soles. Avoid wearing slippers and athletic shoes with deep treads. You want lots of traction.
3. Have your health care provider review your medicines. Your doctor and pharmacist should regularly review the medicines you take (including ones that donít need prescriptions such as cold medicines).
As you get older, the way some medicines work in your body can change. Some medicines, or combinations of medicines, can make you drowsy or light-headed, which can lead to a fall.
4. Have your vision checked.
Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor. You may be wearing the wrong glasses or have a condition such as glaucoma or cataracts that limits your vision. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling.