According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one out of every four older people experience a fall each year. Falls may lead to emergency care, serious injuries and even a fear of returning to everyday activities.
Falls may be common, but they are also preventable. Identifying the risks for falls and making the right changes can help keep people safer and help prevent injuries.
“There are many factors that can contribute to a person’s risk for falling, including their overall health and strength, medications, and fall hazards around them,” said Jake Collins, MPH, Injury Prevention Coordinator, ProMedica. “When we look at fall prevention, we have to consider all these different aspects. But we also know that most falls happen inside or around a person’s home, so making sure their home environment is safe is very important.”
Take care of your overall health.
Regular check-ups and eye exams can help identify conditions that cause dizziness or vision impairment. Make sure that your eyewear prescriptions are up to date, too. If you’re having issues with balance, dizziness or lightheadedness, be sure to bring it up to your healthcare provider. Developing an exercise program to improve balance, flexibility and strength is also beneficial.
Understand your medications.
Certain medications, such as antidepressants, may cause drowsiness or lightheadedness. Some may also affect your blood pressure, causing sudden dizziness or lightheadedness when you stand from a sitting or lying position. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist about any potential side effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications you are taking. Consuming alcohol may also increase the side effects of your medications.
Use and wear the right gear.
Wearing slippers or socks without shoes can increase your risk for slips and falls. Wear low heeled, rubber-soled shoes with good support instead. And, if you feel unsteady, use a cane or walker for balance as needed. Be sure to have your feet assessed by your healthcare provider each year to monitor your foot health and address any symptoms you may be having, such as numbness or tingling.
Keep your home environment safe.
It’s important to have good lighting throughout the house so that you can see where you’re going and any potential obstacles. This is especially important in stairways and halls. Keep walkways and floors clear of clutter and avoid floor coverings that aren’t attached to the floor. Throw rugs, for instance, can bunch up or slip and cause a fall. Install grab bars near the toilet and bathtub to help you move safely and put a non-skid carpet or rug beside the bathtub to keep the floor dry.
Talk with your healthcare provider about any falls.
If you do fall, be sure to notify your healthcare provider, even if you don’t have any injuries. Those who experience a fall are also at a higher risk for future falls. It’s important to know that falling isn’t an inevitable part of getting older. Talk with your healthcare provider about steps you can take to stay safe.