Nobody wants to fall. Not only can a fall be embarrassing, it can also cause physical pain, broken bones, head injury, blood loss or death. That’s why we’re sharing tips to reduce the risk of falling. We’ll look at two different aspects of prevention – your body and your environment. *
Your Body: Strength, flexibility, and balance
No matter how young we are, we’re growing older each day, which is why it’s important to care for your body with simple exercises you can do at home. (Of course, you should ask your health care provider before beginning any exercise program.)
Some exercises, like yoga, are designed to strengthen your muscles, improve balance, and increase flexibility. Even if you’ve never done yoga before or feel intimidated by the idea, it’s a fantastic form of movement that can be adapted to your own body’s needs.
Johns Hopkins Medicine shared an article with nine benefits of yoga, including back pain relief and improved heart health. You can see the full list here, along with five coordinating yoga poses to start with. If you’re new to yoga or have any balance issues, you may want to wait to try The Tree pose or do it while holding onto something sturdy – other poses may need to be similarly adapted for safety.
Silver Sneakers shared an article and video with 8 Yoga Poses That Improve Balance. They also have a short session on YouTube called 7-Minute Yoga Workout for Older Adults. It has nearly 2 million views and many positive comments from “real” people who describe it as “the best active adult yoga video on YouTube,” easy to follow, gentle and not intimidating.*
If yoga isn’t your thing, there are other great balance and flexibility exercises you can do. When searching out new exercises, it’s a good idea to find options with illustrations, videos or animations so you can learn the correct form like these from Johns Hopkins (you’ll need to scroll down a bit) and AARP.
In addition to increasing balance and flexibility, it’s important to protect your bones since they become weaker and more fragile over time. This bone-weakening is called osteoporosis and most often occurs in women after menopause and in men at a later age. Because of this, bones can break more easily when falls do occur.
Doctors often recommend protecting your bones by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol and eating a diet that includes calcium and Vitamin D, which is present in many different foods. In addition to dairy products, calcium can be found in broccoli, sweet potatoes, almonds, and fortified foods like orange juice. A few foods with Vitamin D include salmon, canned tuna fish, fortified cereal, egg yolks and mushrooms.
Your health care provider may also recommend supplements or medications that slow bone loss. Learn more from OrthoInfo, which is a patient education website from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Your Body: Vision
Another part of your health that can contribute to an increase in falls is your eyesight. During the early days of the pandemic, 41% of patients missed out on medical care, according to the American Medical Association. Routine vision and eye health screenings were delayed, which can be problematic for those at risk of falling.
Not only can the wrong eyeglass prescription make it more difficult to see, but moving to a new prescription (especially with bi-focals or tri-focals) can take some time to get used to. Missing a step or tripping over something that isn’t in your direct line of sight can cause a twisted ankle, broken toe or even a major fall.
Other vision issues may include difficulty seeing things clearly in dimly lit rooms and hallways. Adding motion-sensor nightlights can help address this issue.
If you feel as though you’re not adjusting well to your new glasses or you experience any other vision frustrations, reach out to your eye doctor. They are happy to help make sure your eyes function as well as possible for both your safety and comfort.
Your Body: Medication Management
Approximately 85% of American adults age 60 and older take at least one prescription per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition to daily maintenance medications, many men and women take both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications on an as-needed basis. This can include things like pain medication or anti-inflammatories.
All medications have a risk of side effects and those effects can be compounded when an individual is taking more than one medicine – drug interactions can occur quickly and be quite dangerous. Some of the most common side effects include dizziness, lightheadedness, drowsiness and fatigue, which can all lead to an increased risk of a fall. Even side effects like vomiting and diarrhea can become problematic since dehydration can lead to dizziness and fainting.
Taking the right doses at the right time is critical to drug safety. You should always let all your health care providers know what medicines you’re taking, including those prescribed by other doctors, OTC medications, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies. He or she can alert you to potential interactions. In addition, with the medication management services provided by BrightStar Care agencies, we are able to help ensure that clients are taking their medicines correctly, as well as monitor them for potential side effects.
Your Environment: Home
You spend a lot of time in your home, so it’s important to make sure it’s safe. Here are a few tips to get started, but you can find a more comprehensive list from the CDC:
- Remove tripping hazards such as cords, cables, slippers and other items
- Use non-slip rugs instead of loose rugs (or eliminate them all together)
- Make sure lighting is adequate, inside and out – especially on stairs
- Store items on shelves you can reach to reduce the need for a stool or ladder
- Add non-slip decals to your bathtub or shower
- Have a plan for someone to shovel your driveway if you can’t do it yourself
- Clean up spills immediately
Your Environment: On the go
When you go for a walk in the park, visit the dentist or spend time with family, you don’t have control over those environments. But you CAN take steps to improve your safety in situations like these – here are some recommendations for these specific locations:
- The park: Take a companion with you, as well as your mobile phone, a whistle and/or a medical alert system that can detect falls or allow you to call for help. You should also wear comfortable, sturdy shoes with good traction and pay attention to your surroundings to avoid being startled by a bicyclist or animal darting by.
- The dentist: If you struggle with strength or movement, be sure to take your cane or walker with you. When finishing up the appointment, ask the dentist to raise your seat slowly and take your time getting up. You may also want to have a drink of water before leaving the chair. If you’re feeling wobbly from pain medication or anesthetic, ask your companion or a staff member to walk you to your car – of course, you should wait to drive until you feel fully prepared.
- Family visits: Call ahead to ask that rugs, cords and other tripping hazards are removed from the main walkways both in and out of the house. This would include children’s toys or family members’ shoes. If the home you’re visiting has energetic pets, you could request that the animals spend time in another room so they don’t knock you over or cause you to trip.
The BrightStar Care® team is here to help you and your loved ones stay safe at home. If you’d like to receive a complimentary fall risk or in-home care assessment, please call 866-618-7827 or find a locally owned and operated BrightStar Care agency near you.
* This article is provided for educational purposes and isn’t designed to provide medical advice. Please turn to your own health care provider for input on exercise, medication interactions and all other health matters.