I have so many friends who have sustained quite serious injuries after falling recently that I thought it was time to revisit the subject of fall prevention. While some of these friends are young, most are between 50 and 70 and a few are even older. As you age you may be at risk from osteoporosis (loss of bone mass), sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) and/or have problems with your balance. The risk of falling might become quite high if you have sarcopenia combined with poor balance or other health problems and the medication you take for your conditions can also raise the risk of having an accident. If you suffer from brittle bones (osteoporosis), the consequences can be more serious than they normally would be and the need to prevent falls even greater.
It is essential at all times, but especially as you age, to take a look at your home and accident-proof it as much as possible. It is also a good time to examine your lifestyle and make some sensible choices, such as cutting down on alcohol intake if you have a tendency to consume too much alcohol and in your choice of footwear.
Take accident prevention seriously and do all you can to prevent falls as it might save you a lot of pain and inconvenience and even save your life.
Discuss the subject of fall prevention with a local health professional.
You can review the situation with your doctor when you have your next general check up or make an appointment to see someone at your local clinic. Take a list of the medications you are taking, be they prescription drugs (which s/he should know about) or those you buy over the counter. You should discuss any problems with the interaction of the medications you are taking and also the side effect of each medication – do they make you dizzy or have the potential to do so.
Your doctor will also let you know if the medical conditions you suffer from make you more likely to lose your balance and fall. He will check your sight and hearing or send you for tests as problems with eyes and ears can also be an accident-hazard, causing you to lose your balance or become dizzy.
Get your blood pressure checked and tell your doctor if you have any changes with this. Changes in blood pressure, especially when getting up too quickly, can put you at risk.
Your doctor should also check your muscle strength and balance and check your gait for problems. He might also suggest a bone scan to make sure you are not at risk from osteoporosis.
If you have a history of falling you will need to discuss the details with your doctor and devise strategies to prevent falls. Is all the medication you take absolutely necessary, for example? Are you getting enough exercise? If you are very frail, he should have some idea of what is available to help you in your area and put you in touch with social services if necessary.
a) Eating well and regularly can make a difference to your wellbeing and decrease your risk of accidents. If you go too long between meals, let your blood sugar drop, or allow yourself to become weak through not eating correctly, you will be more likely to have an accident,
b) Drink enough water to prevent dehydration. Lack of water can also make you dizzy and prone to accidents. Make sure you drink enough liquids throughout the day.
c) Keep moving – too much sitting or lying around is bad for you and can also make you prone to accidents. The importance of exercise will be emphasized below but housework and everyday chores can help to keep you in shape.
d) Take your medication regularly. Taking your medication regularly is also a good strategy for preventing accidents.
e) Get as close to seven hours sleep as you can. Too little or too much sleep can make you accident prone. Sleep often becomes problematic as we age. Read our advice on how to beat insomnia.
f) Don’t drink too much alcohol or use recreational drugs as these can also make you more accident prone.
g) Have your eyes tested regularly and
wear the appropriate glasses. Read our mini section on eye care to make sure you are taking care of your eyes properly.
Make sure that your footwear is appropriate for your age, especially if you are having problems with walking or balance. High heels may not be appropriate, especially if you live in an area where the sidewalks are not very easy to walk on. Loose fitting shoes, trailing laces, flip-flops, slippers and shoes offering no support, can all be problematic and make it more likely that you will slip or stumble. Walking in socks or stockings when at home can also cause you to slip.
Feet have a tendency to spread as you age. Make sure that your shoes fit you properly and are not too short or too tight. Make sure the soles are not too thick and are skid proof. Lace-up shoes or shoes that give your ankles support are more age appropriate than slip-ons and high heels.
Make comfort more important than fashion as you age. While vanity might make you go for something more flattering, if you want to prevent falls you might want to think again. Compromise can be better than months in plaster.
Review your home for hazards that might make it likely that you will fall. Here are some things to look for in your efforts to prevent falls:
Making sure that you have enough light to see properly will help avoid accidents and prevent falls.
Here are some points to consider:
Good lighting will also avoid straining your eyes.
Sarcopenia can be a real problem as you age and you need to take action if you are losing too much muscle or find your strength is rapidly declining. Read our articles on preventing sarcopenia and understanding sarcopenia if you think this might be a problem.
Taking urgent action to curtail or prevent Sarcopenia is a necessary strategy for preventing falls. However, exercise is important for everyone as they age in order to improve their strength, balance and coordination and prevent falls.
Activities such as walking, swimming, dancing and gentle exercise routines can go a long way in keeping you physically fit and avoiding accidents. Tai chi and yoga are also very good to improve your flexibility and balance and can help improve strength and coordination. Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. Water aerobics is particularly helpful and can eliminate the risk of straining your muscles if you are not used to working out or have problems like arthritis. If you are frail or are frightened of doing exercise because you think you might fall, your doctor can help you by sending you for physiotherapy or exercises specifically for older people with therapists who are qualified in this area.
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|Mary Treacy is the founder and contributing editor of age-well.org. She has over thirty years of experience working with non-profit, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), mainly business associations. Mary's work experience is mainly in the field of communication management, journalism and editing and she is an experienced writer in many sectors including co-operatives, agriculture, housing, insurance, banking, commmerce, women's issues and health. You can find her on Google + and Twitter.