Something as simple as tripping on a rug or slipping on a wet floor can have a huge impact on your life. That’s because falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in the elderly and can result in consequences like
- mobility issues,
- head trauma,
- chronic pain, and
- the loss of your independence1.
In the elderly population, a fall can be the start of much more serious health problems and can have long-lasting consequences. Some of the steps below can help to lower your risk of having a fall:
1- Stay physically active
Regular exercise keeps your joints, tendons, and ligaments strong and flexible. Flexibility helps you keep your balance and regular exercise builds up muscle strength. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessary to hit the gym every day in order to stay active. Instead think about activities like walking, swimming, low-intensity cardio exercises, or even yoga!
2- Bone and joint health
Bone and joint health matter. That means keeping your bones healthy by getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet. Things like calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin D all help maintain the strength of your bones. Be sure to eat foods that are rich in these nutrients or consider adding supplements to your diet to make sure that you’re getting the daily recommended dose.
3- Go for regular eye tests
It may sound obvious, but good vision is an important part of avoiding accidents. Even small changes in your eyesight may cause you to fall. Eye problems can result in you being unable to judge depth and distance, which can lead to poor balance. If you’re already scheduled for regular eye tests, great! If not, be sure to speak to your doctor about them.
4- Make sure all the medications you are taking are reviewed every few months
You might be wondering what your medications have to do with fall prevention. The answer is everything. As we age, we may have multiple medical conditions such as
- high blood pressure,
- arthritis or
All these involve many medications. As time goes on, many elderly patients start acquiring a long list of medications that they take daily.
The effect is that some medications and their interactions can make you dizzy, faint, and unsteady.
So what should you do? Make sure that every 4-6 months your doctor reviews all your medications. They may decide to lower the dose of your current medications or switch them around if they suspect they’re increasing your risk of falls. Make sure your medications are reviewed every few months because even with the best of intentions, doctors sometimes forget all the medications that you’re taking.
5- Make your home safe
There are many changes you can make to your home that will help you avoid falls and ensure your safety.
- In stairways, hallways, and pathways have handrails on both sides of the stairs and make sure they are tightly fastened.
- Make sure there is good lighting with light switches at the top and bottom of stairs and on each end of a long hall.
- Don’t use throw rugs or small area rugs.
- In bathrooms and powder rooms, mount grab bars near toilets and on both the inside and outside of your tub and shower. Place non-skid mats in places that get wet.
6- Other general day-to-day tips to keep in mind
- Stand up slowly. Get in the habit of standing up slowly. Getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop. That can make you feel wobbly and can lead to falls.
- If waking up at night and getting out of bed, turn on your night lamp, let your eyes adjust, and then get out of bed. It’s surprising how many falls people suffer simply from getting out of their own bed at night. This is a time when you’re slightly groggy, disoriented, and likely to misjudge the distance.
- Use a walking stick if you need help feeling steady when you walk. If your doctor tells you to use a cane or walker, make sure it is the right size for you and the wheels roll smoothly.
- Wear non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes, or lace-up shoes with non-skid soles that fully support your feet. It is important that the soles are not too thin or too thick. Don’t walk around on stairs or floors in socks or in shoes and slippers with smooth soles.
Most of the time falls and accidents don’t “just happen”. There are usually a few hints or warning signs that lead up to the fall. For example, you may notice that you always feel dizzy when standing up or that you’re always tripping on a certain carpet in the house. Don’t ignore these signs. See your doctor if necessary or fix the problem where possible.
1- National Council on Aging. Falls prevention facts. https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/falls-prevention-facts/
2- National Institute of health (NIH). US. Department of Health and Human Services. National institute on aging. Age page: Falls and fractures. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/falls-and-fractures