What do an icy sidewalk, a rug and an electrical cord have in common? They could cause you to fall and become injured. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths, non-fatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma among older adults. Every year, one out of every three adults age 65 and older experience a fall. Research shows that by the year 2020, the annual direct and indirect cost of fall injuries is expected to reach $54.9 billion. The good news is that certain safety measures can prevent falls and injuries.
Reducing the risk of falling
As you age, your risk of falling becomes greater. This is because of changes in vision and balance, along with other medical and physical conditions. Most people also lose bone density as they age, so the risk of broken bones from falls is a greater concern. Older adults can take steps to lower the risk of falling. Here are ideas:
- Have your vision and hearing checked regularly.
- Know the side effects of medicines. Some may lead to loss of balance and coordination.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Wear rubber-soled and low-heeled shoes that fit properly and support your feet. Don’t wear loose-fitting slippers that could cause you to trip.
- Be careful on wet or icy sidewalks.
- Exercise regularly to stay flexible and keep your bones strong.
Preventing falls at home
Take safety measures at home to reduce your risk of falling as you get older. Take these steps:
- Remove small rugs or use double-sided tape under small rugs to prevent slipping.
- Keep clutter to a minimum. Remove things from walking areas that you could trip over.
- Keep the temperature in your home at a comfortable level. This will keep you from becoming too dizzy from extreme cold or heat.
- Keep frequently used items in reach, so you don’t have to rely on a step stool.
- Install handle bars next to toilets and bathtubs or showers.
- Use nonslip mats in bathtubs and showers.
- Improve the lighting in your home.
- Remove electrical cords from the floor in walking areas.
- Install handrails and lights on all staircases.
Balance and falls in older adults
Having good balance means you’re able to control your body’s position. Many things can cause problems with balance.
Some medications can cause problems. For example, medicines that lower blood pressure can make you feel dizzy. Talk with your health care provider if you notice a balance problem while taking a medicine. He or she may be able to prescribe a smaller dose or change your medicine.
A balance disorder is a problem of the inner ear. It can make you feel unsteady or like you’re moving or spinning. Common balance disorders include vertigo, labyrinthitis and Ménière’s disease. See your health care provider if you:
- Feel unsteady
- Feel as if the room is spinning around you
- Feel as if you’re moving when standing still
- Lose your balance
Traveling program teaches fall prevention
The goal for the Mobile Safety Street for Seniors program is to educate seniors and caregivers about fall prevention and home safety techniques in order to reduce injuries. The program features a realistic home environment. It travels throughout Central Massachusetts to senior centers, adult daycare facilities, senior housing facilities and assisted living facilities to teach seniors about fall prevention using demonstrations and simulation.