According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 25 percent of adults over the age of 65 fall every year , making it the leading cause of injury for older adults. Although the risk of falling in older adults increases with age, experts caution that falls are not a normal part of the aging process. There are some practical steps you can take to lower your risk of falling – allowing you to remain independent well into your golden years.
Ways to Help Reduce the Risk of Falling
1. Visit Your Doctor
If you are worried about the possibility of a fall, or have already fallen, it is a good idea to schedule a visit with your doctor. A thorough physical will check for any underlying medical conditions that might increase your chances of falling. For example, nerve damage from diabetes and joint inflammation from arthritis may affect your ability to walk, while certain eye and ear conditions can also be considered risk factors.
Dizziness and poor balance are possible side effects of medications used to treat common medical conditions. Bring a complete list of medications you are currently taking to your visit – including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as supplements so your physician can determine if any of them may increase your risk of falling.
2. Identify and Remove Tripping Hazards
Have a loved one or friend help you scan your home from tripping hazards. Start outside – looking for things that might increase the risk of falling, such as loose pavers in your sidewalk or large tree roots.
As you move indoors, make sure power cords are tucked out of the way. For an extra layer of security, consider taping them down. Minimize clutter as much as possible – keep pet items like bowls or toys out of the way when not in use, while books or magazines may be placed in a bookcase or basket. Avoid the temptation of leaving your shoes or clothing on the floor as they are easy to trip over.
Accidents in older adults caused by tripping on loose carpeting, or by slipping on smaller rugs are common. It is a good idea to periodically check your carpet to make sure it is fully attached to the floor. Consider removing smaller area or throw rugs and replacing them with larger ones that are easier to secure. No-slip strips can be added to wood and tile floors to provide better traction. Non-skid mats are a safe bet in the bathroom – add grab bars if balance is an issue.
3. Make Sure Your Rooms Have Plenty of Light
According to the Mayo Clinic, poor lighting can also increase your risk of falling. Reduce the chances of tripping over objects you can’t see by ensuring each room has plenty of lighting. This is especially important in the bedroom when visits to the bathroom in the middle of the night are common. Consider using smart bulbs and switches – which allow you to control lighting fixtures either by voice or through an app on your smartphone. Something as simple as keeping a lamp on the night table limits the distance you’ll need to travel in the dark.
4. Keep Items Within Easy Reach
Dishes, clothing, food, or cosmetic items – there are numerous things we need to access on any given day. While it might seem sensible to use every inch of available storage space, experts encourage older adults to leave hard-to-reach cabinets empty. Climbing on a step stool or a chair to reach an item that is stored high up can greatly increase the risk of falling in older adults. Heavy or awkward items are better stored at waist height to make it easier – and safer – to access them.
Fearful of falling, many older adults limit their activities, including exercise. Data from a recent study suggests that regular exercise can significantly reduce the risk of falling in adults over the age of 65.
As always, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Consider consulting with a physical therapist, who can assess your specific needs and create a detailed program for you. They can also provide modifications and feedback on your form.
Additional Lifestyle Resources
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