Falls are linked to death and injury in all age groups, but older adults are particularly vulnerable. Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury death for men and women 65 and older in America and account for nearly one-third of unintentional injury deaths for this population. Risk factors include increasing age, decreased activity and strength, poor balance, impaired vision, osteoporosis, dementia, and multiple medications and illnesses. However, many of these falls can be prevented by making changes in the physical environment such as reducing household hazards, beginning an exercise program to improve balance and strength, and having regular health screenings to monitor medications and changes in vision.
What to do:
Exercise regularly to build strength and improve balance and coordination. Some scientifically proven exercise regimens for seniors include tai chi, walking, and ballroom dancing. Speak with your doctor about the best exercise program for you.
Home Modification—According to the National Council on Aging
- Keep stairs and walkways clear of clutter and phone and electrical cords.
- Use non-slip mats in the tub/shower. Install grab bars in tub and near toilet.
- Use only throw rugs with rubber, nonskid backing.
- Make sure stairways are well lit from both top and bottom. Have easy-to-grip handrails on both sides of the whole staircase.
- Wear sturdy, well-fitted, low-heeled shoes with non-slip soles. These are safer than high-heels, thick-soled athletic shoes, slippers or stocking feet.
- Take your time. Being rushed or distracted greatly increases your chance of falling.
Proper Medication Management
- Read and save all written information that comes with the medicine.
- Make a list of all the medicines you take. Show it to all your health care providers. Keep one copy in your medicine cabinet and one in your wallet or pocketbook.
- Take your medicine in the exact amount and at the time your doctor prescribes.
- Call your doctor right away if you have any problems with your medicine or if you are worried that the medicine might be doing more harm than good. Your doctor may be able to change your medicine to a different one that will work better for you.
- Use a memory aid to take your medicines on time. Some types of reminders are meal times, bedtime, charts, calendars, and weekly pill boxes.
- Do not skip doses of medicine or take half doses to save money. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you cannot afford the prescribed medicine. There may be less costly choices or special programs to help with the cost of certain drugs.
- Take your medicine until it is finished or until your doctor says it is okay to stop.
- Don’t take medicine in the dark. To avoid making a mistake, turn your light on before reaching for your pills.
- Check the expiration dates on your medicine bottles and throw away outdated medicines.
Take Care of Your Vision
- Poor vision can increase your chance of falling.
- See an eye specialist at least once a year. If you have cataracts, have them removed.
- Make sure you have adequate lighting in your home.
- Install a night light between your bedroom and bathroom.
- ALWAYS turn on the lights before using the stairs.