Tips on How to Prevent Falls
Did you know that each year, millions of older people – those 65 and older – fall? In fact, according to the CDC, one in four older people fall each year and less than half report the fall to their doctor. Falling once doubles your chance of falling again.
Alan Mayer, author of I’m 93, Why Am I Still Alive?, took interest in the subject after observing his late wife Terry stumble. “I noticed that she was walking toe first and she lost her balance a lot.” After pointing this out and helping her recognize her habits, she adjusted how she walked and never fell again. Not everyone is so lucky, says Mayer.
“One and five falls causes serious injuries such as bone breaks and head injuries. Each year, 2.8 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries and over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized after a fall injury,” he says.
At least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures, 93 percent of which are caused by falling sideways. The statistics are staggering.
So, what can you do to help yourself and your loved ones from taking a tumble. The good news, as Alan can attest, is that often falls can be prevented. The key is to know where to look. Alan has compiled a tip sheet of common factors that can lead to a fall:
- Balance and gait: As we age, most of us lose some coordination, flexibility and balance – primarily through inactivity, making it easier to fall. Stay active, says Mayer, a former semi-pro boxer who at 93 continues to work out daily at the gym. Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. With your doctor’s ok, consider walking, water workouts or even Tai Chi. Such activities reduce the risk of losing strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.
- Vision: Less light reaches the retina in the aging eye, making tripping hazards and obstacles harder to see. The Mayo clinic recommends removing home hazards. Look around your home. Your living space may be filled with hazards; remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords, and phone cords from walkways. Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands from high-traffic areas.
- Lighten up your living space. Place night lights in your bedroom, bathrooms and hallways. Make clear paths to light switches and consider changing traditional switches to ones that illuminate. Remove area rugs. Turn on all lights before going up and down steps. Keep flashlights readily available in case of power outages.
- Wear sensible shoes. Forget the high heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles. They can make you slip, stumble and fall. Walking bare footed also is dangerous. Instead, wear properly fitted, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles. Sensible shoes with properly fitted arches may also reduce joint pain.
- Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, dehydration or interactions with each other that may lead to a fall. Make sure to talk about your medications with your doctor and pharmacist. Be aware that some sleep aids include medication that may lead to balance issues and dizziness.
How can your children and friends help?
- Pay attention. Notice if your loved ones are holding onto walls, furniture, or someone else when walking or if they appear to have difficulty walking or rising from a chair. These are all signs that they may need to see a physical therapist and work on strength and gait through exercise. They may also need assistive devices like a cane or walker; hand rails for the stairs; nonslip threads for bare-wood steps; a raised toilet seat or one with armrests; grab bars for the shower or tub, or a sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub. Ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist. Remember, an investment in fall prevention is an investment in independence.
- Do a walk-through safety assessment of their home. There are many simple and inexpensive ways to make a home safer.
- Discuss health conditions. Also make sure they’re taking advantage of all the preventive benefits now offered under Medicare, such as the Annual Wellness visit. Encourage them to speak openly with their health care provider about all their concerns.
About the Author
Not many authors come into their own in their nineties, but Alan Mayer, a young 93 years old, has found his voice and continues to blend his wry humor with tidbits of wisdom in his third book of I’m 93, Why Am I Still Alive?, A resident of Highland Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, Alan Mayer was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1923. When he was a young boy the family moved to Babylon, Long Island, at a time when it was still quite rural. His family owned a butcher shop and although they never wanted for food, he took on many jobs to help out. He worked on the fishing docks and became a semi-pro boxer by the time he was 13.
After graduating high school, Mayer served in the US Air Force during World War II. Upon his return from the war, he married his high school sweetheart and was fortunate enough, with only a high school education, to turn jobs into business opportunities. During the first 30 years of his career, he owned 15 companies. For the next 30 years, he was a banker in Chicago. Finding artistic expression has also been important to Mayer. He has been a highly- regarded sculptor for the past twenty years and his works have been on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. At age 91, Mayer published his first book, The Fix, a boxing story that is part fact, part fiction. Sitting Duck was his second book and his most recent book, I’m 93. Why am I Still Alive. To order the books, visit: https://wethepeoplepublishing.com/products/im-93-why-am-i-still-alive