It’s Easier To Prevent Falls Than To Recover From Falls
September is National Fall Prevention Month, so Office for Aging Services want to remind everyone that falls are preventable. When you’re young, an injury from a fall may sideline you for a few days or weeks, but a full recovery is usually quick. As you get older, the consequences of falls can become more serious, setting up a sequence of events that can have longstanding implications on independence and health.
It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Although falls typically become more common and can be more serious as you age, falls are not a natural part of getting older. In fact, most falls are preventable. Knowing the factors that put you at greater risk of falling and taking proper steps can help prevent falls.
Risk factors for falls in older people include overall health (chronic diseases and physical conditions), environment (hazards and situations at home) and behaviors, such as rushing around or standing on a chair to reach something.
These steps from the experts at the National Council on Aging can help prevent falls:
¯ Stay active: Exercise helps increase or maintain coordination and muscle tone that can keep you steady on your feet and your reactions sharp. Walking, gardening or taking an exercise class are just a few ways to keep your heart healthy and your muscles toned. While all exercises are helpful it is best to do exercise that strengthen as well as challenge your balance muscles like Tai Chi. Office for Aging Services (OFAS) has brochures to show you simple exercises you can do at the kitchen counter to improve strength and balance. If you need more motivation consider joining a virtual exercise program (free of charge) through GetSetUp:Live classes for older adults (www.getsetup.io ). NYS Office for the Aging has purchased 50,000 slots to make this available to people across the state during the pandemic. In addition many senior groups are resuming in-person exercise at low or no cost. Call NY Connects for locations and exercise options at (716) 753-4582.
¯ Manage underlying chronic conditions: The better your overall health, the lower your risk of falls. Chronic conditions like diabetes, depression, osteoarthritis, obesity and high blood pressure can increase your risk. Managing those conditions by seeing your health care provider regularly, taking medication as prescribed, eating a healthy diet and choosing appropriate exercise can help prevent falls. If you are having difficulty managing your chronic conditions consider taking a Healthy Living Class, which teaches practical tips for managing Diabetes, Chronic pain and other conditions that can contribute to falls. Call NY Connects for more information.
¯ Review medications: Side effects from some medications can cause dizziness that can increase the risk of falling. Also interactions between prescribed medications and over the counter medicines (like cold and flu remedies) can make you more susceptible to falling. Types of medicine associated with an increased risk include sedatives and diuretics as well as those used to treat high blood pressure and anxiety. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about all prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines you are taking. They can change your medicines and /or suggest which over the counter medicine are best for cold, flu or seasonal allergies that won’t put you at increased risk for a fall.
¯ Get your eyes checked: Vision changes as you age, so it is important to get your eyes checked once a year to make sure your prescription is up to date. It’s also important to screen for any eye-related diseases like cataracts and glaucoma, which can limit your vision and make you more susceptible to falling. Many eye conditions are treatable when caught at an early stage.
¯ Assess your home: Look around for potential hazards in your home. Consider enlisting the help of a family member or neighbor who may be more likely to notice things you don’t. Install grab bars in your bathrooms, get rid of slippery throw rugs (or add a rubber backing) and keep passageways inside and outside your home well-lit and free from clutter and debris. Office for Aging Services has a free booklet that can help you identify potential hazards in and around your home and pick a solution that makes sense for you and your wallet. Call NY Connects and we will be happy to send you a copy of this and other fall prevention information.
For more tips and information about fall prevention, visit www.acl.gov/fallsprevention. Thank you to the Administration for Community Living for providing the content for this article. For more information on what is available locally contact our NY Connects Helpline at 753-4582.