Maintaining Your Independence: Preventing Falls in a Variety of Environments
By Dr. Dan Maurer, Collin County LIVING WELL Magazine
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), every year, more than 11 million Americans over the age of 65 fall. These falls are the leading cause of fractures, hospitalizations due to trauma, loss of independence and injury deaths among older adults according to Dr. Dan Maurer, an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff at Centennial Medical Center. The number of falls, as well as the severity of the resulting injury, tends to increase with age and fractures tend to occur in the hand, arm, spine, hip, pelvis or ankle. Fortunately, taking steps to prevent falls at home can significantly reduce the risk of falling.
Falls can happen anywhere and at any time, from getting out of bed to climbing stairs. Prevent falls by following these safety tips from Maurer.
Talk with your doctor.
It is important to have regular physical and eye examinations, including an evaluation of any heart or blood pressure problems. Check with your doctor about any side effects of medications you are taking or potential drug interactions that could increase your fall risk.
Regular exercise can help strengthen muscles, increase agility and endurance, and improve balance and coordination. Activities such as walking and water aerobics, along with tai chi or yoga to improve balance, may be recommended by your physician.
Safeguard your home.
Eliminate tripping hazards around the house by having a clear pathway between rooms, securing loose area rugs and removing door thresholds higher than half an inch. Always keep clutter off the floor and clean up spills as soon as possible. Install handrails on stairs and grab bars in the bathroom. Place a rubber mat or textured adhesive strips in the bathtub. Keep electrical and extension cords out of the way.
Wear the right shoes.
Wear low-heeled shoes that have nonskid soles. Avoid high heels, shoes with smooth soles and floppy slippers. Select shoes that either tie or have fabric fasteners to ensure a good fit. Do not walk around in stocking feet and use a shoe horn it you have difficulty putting on shoes.
Watch where you’re going.
Turn the light on when entering a room and when going up or down the stairs. Avoid rushing to answer the phone or door. Arrange your closet and cabinet so things are within an easy reach. Keep a flashlight handy in case of a power failure.
Use assistive devices.
Canes and walkers can help you stay balanced and prevent harmful falls. A grabber can help you pick up lightweight items that are slightly out of reach so you do not have to bend over and potentially lose your balance.
Seniors should get adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D to keep their bones strong. For people over age 50, that means consuming 1,200 mg of calcium daily by eating calcium-rich foods such as dairy products, dark green, leafy vegetables, and nuts, as well as taking calcium supplements.
“Having a fear of falling should not rule your life,” said Maurer. “Taking these precautions greatly reduces your risks for injuries so you can maintain your independence.”
For more information about preventing falls, talk with your doctor or visit www.centennialmedcenter.com.