Falls Prevention Awareness Day is observed in mid-September this year. This week, Sept. 21-27, is also National Falls Prevention Week – a time to ensure that our elderly loved ones are stable and safe at all times. This year’s theme is Strong Today, Falls Free Tomorrow.
Fall prevention is especially critical for the elderly population. Falls can lead to serious injuries such as head injuries and hip fractures, resulting in loss of independence and mobility. Some major falls can also lead to death. To prevent such falls, it’s important to not only eliminate any hazards around the home but also take care of one’s body through exercise and regular doctor checkups.
Use the following tips below to help reduce fall risks:
Use safety precautions at home.Starting with the bathroom – where most falls occur – install grab bars near the shower/bath and toilet area to provide extra balance and stability. For those who have weak knees or a bad back, a raised toilet seat can help take the strain of sitting down and getting back up. Non-skid bath mats also help prevent falls, especially on wet and slippery floors.
The next room to tackle is the bedroom. A sturdy bed rail can help elderly adults easily and safely get in and out of bed without fear of losing balance. Some bed rails also help users from falling out of the bed during sleep. For those who have Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia or who need constant supervision, a patient alarm can help alert caregivers to provide assistance before the patient tries to get up and fall.
All around the home, make sure to provide adequate lighting and keep walkways clear. Have your loved one wear non-skid shoes, especially while in the kitchen where the floor can get slippery. Repair any broken fixtures, such as loose handrails by the stairs, that may increase fall risks. Use a metal grabber tool to reach items on high shelves and out-of-reach places.
Improve mobility. Sometimes, mobility aids, such as walking canes and rolling walkers (rollators) are a necessity to keep your loved ones safe on their feet. These mobility devices would be especially helpful if your loved one has chronic arthritis, a bad back or weak knees. Nowadays, canes, rollators, walkers and other devices come in a variety of styles and colors, so your loved one is sure to find one that will fit him/her needs. Plus, there are stylish mobility bags and pouches that your loved one can add to keep personal belonging safe and close.
Get a checkup. Elderly people are more susceptible to diseases and health conditions. That’s why it’s very important to get regular checkups. Your loved one should get his/her vision and hearing checked to help prevent falls. “Doctors are often an important first checkpoint for falls prevention. Asking about an individual’s history of falling, and observing him or her doing specific in-office activities, such as getting up from a chair and walking steadily, helps identify higher-than-average risk,” Joseph Gallagher, a licensed physical therapist with Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY), said in a statement. It’s also imperative to review medication as some side effects can increase the risk of falls.
Get up and exercise. Another way to help prevent falls is to try balance exercises for the elderly. A sedentary life can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and other medical conditions that can affect balance and cognitive function. Encourage your loved one to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. There are many balance exercises that work well for elderly people, helping them to build strength and flexibility. Yoga, tai-chi, and taking simple walks around the park are all great ways to stay active. Be sure to check with a medical professional to determine which exercises should be avoided and which are okay.
For more information on how to prevent falls, check out National Council on Aging (NCOA).
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