By Jeannette Sheehan
Every year one in three individuals over the age of 65 fall. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injury death among seniors. Whether you are living at home, with your children, or in a senior community, you will want to stay safe and learn how to keep from falling.
Q. Why is fall prevention such a big deal?
A. Falling is not just a matter of landing on the floor with a bump. A fall can cause serious injury, including broken bones. Even a slight fall may cause problems. If you are afraid, you’re more likely to stop moving around and getting out to see friends, and this can lead to physical weakness — even depression. (See www.cdc.gov/mmwr.)
Q. Is it true that the medicine I’m taking can cause me to fall?
A. Many medications can increase your risk for falls. Blood pressure medication may lower your blood pressure, which can make you dizzy when you stand up. Sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications also increase the risk of falling if taken incorrectly. Check with your doctor about your medicine.
Q. How could my hearing or vision keep me from falling?
A. Your ears and eyes help you know what is going on around you. If your hearing or vision are impaired, you may not hear the cat under your feet, or see the edge of a step.
Q. It sounds like changes to my house could be expensive — won’t I have to pay a contractor?
A. Many fall prevention measures are simple, no-cost steps you can take yourself. Start by removing clutter and other obstacles from areas where you walk, and be sure you have enough lighting — especially night lights. Stair rails and grab bars in the bathroom are helpful. Did you know that if your favorite chair is too low you risk falling when you get up?
Q. I’m afraid that if I start exercising I may fall and get hurt.
A. If you begin with kick-boxing, you probably will get hurt. There are many exercises and exercise programs perfect for older Americans, including Tai Chi and even yoga. You can practice balancing in your own home with simple exercises. Here’s one: Stand at your kitchen counter, holding onto the edge. To improve your balance, stand on one foot and hold for several seconds, then repeat with the other foot. Then walk in place to increase your strength. You can even walk in place while sitting in a chair.
For more information: Department of Public Health falls hotline, 800 227-7233. Contact your local senior center about fall prevention.
Useful websites include:
Jeannette Sheehan, MSN, RN, a board certified nurse practitioner, is founder and owner of ABC Home Healthcare Professionals, 233 Albion St., Wakefield. She can be reached at 781-245-1880. Visit their website at www.abchhp.com. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read on fiftyplusadvocate.com.