Let’s face it: We’re all getting older. As we age, our bones become more fragile. Our reflexes are no longer lightening-quick. Our eyes just might be playing tricks on us. These factors can lead to the likelihood of a serious tumble. And falls can cost us — not only in terms of treatment, but in terms of independence and even our lives.
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Who’s at risk of spills
It’s important to know whether or not you might be at risk of falls, says Cleveland Clinic geriatric clinical nurse specialist Anne Vanderbilt, MSN, CNP, CNS. If you are over age 65, having four or more of these risk factors will increase your risk of falling by 80 percent:
- A history of falls
- Chronic disease
- Greater than four medications
- An acute illness
If you see yourself in the above list, be sure to get annual health screenings — doctors’ orders!
Reducing your risk
Don’t let fear of falling cramp your lifestyle. Use these tips to stay safely upright, Ms. Vanderbilt suggests:
- Check your meds. Taking four or more medications ups your chance of falling down. This includes over-the-counter medicines. Talk to your doctor to see if any can be safely eliminated.
- See the eye doctor annually. Wearing specs that aren’t up to snuff is a factor in falls among the elderly. A yearly eye exam will reveal whether your prescription — or your glasses — needs adjusting.
- Outfit those feet. Most seniors know to skip the heels. But bare-footing it or staying in stockings or socks at home also increases your risk of falls. Look for non-skid footwear, including slipper socks with non-skid treads on the bottom.
- Work out. Incorporate exercises that blend muscle strengthening with balance retraining, such as tai chi.
- Lean on me. Better to use a cane or walker than to lose your balance. Put pride aside so that you can get around safely.
- A family affair. A strong social network of family and/or friends means fewer falls. If you’re feeling isolated, reach out. Maybe someone is waiting to hear from you!
Preventing a fall is your best bet for remaining active and independent as you age.
Home, safe home
Fall-proofing your home is also a must to avoid sudden spills:
- Clear your path of clutter such as shoes, books and newspapers.
- Get rid of throw rugs or tack them down with two-sided tape.
- Keep things you often use easily accessible.
- Add grab bars and secure mats to bathrooms, tubs and showers. Install handrails on stairwells.
- Let there be light — use brighter lights to boost safety.
Take an active role in preventing falls to help ensure your own safety. Knowing if you are at risk is the first step.