Preventing Falls: Tips for Seniors
As we age, our bodies wear down and become easier to injure. While a tumble in the kitchen in our 20s or 30s can be painful (and maybe a little embarrassing), the same fall for a senior living alone can be devastating, potentially leading to declining health, loss of independence, or worse – death.
If you are a senior, a person with limited mobility, or a caregiver for someone at risk for falls, there are some things you can do to help prevent falls while promoting an overall healthier well-being.
If you have a history of falls or a fear of falling, explore causes and patterns. Ask yourself:
· Are the walkways uneven?
· Do you have to navigate a dark room or hallway to reach a light switch?
· Are there frayed rugs or carpeting that may trip you?
· Are walkways clear?
Making Your Living Area Safer
· Use lighting and assistive devices like walkers to create a safer home environment
· Get repairs made where possible
· Replace light switches with sensors that can turn the lights on for you
· Remove trip hazards, such as rugs
· Clear walkways of obstacles like boxes and stacks of magazines
Staying healthy and active can also help prevent falls. Getting enough sunlight, eating enough, and maintaining a healthy weight all help lower fall risk. Communicate with your providers to best manage your health and let them know about any changes.
· If you get up frequently at night to use the restroom, consider using a bedside commode to shorten the walk
· Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, and ask your healthcare provider to check for osteoporosis to help prevent broken bones if a fall should occur
· Ask your health care provider if a Vitamin D supplement can benefit you
While medications are a common and necessary tool for helping seniors manage medical conditions, they can also contribute to falls. When possible, avoid medications that are psychoactive or have side effects that may cause dizziness, blurred vision, drowsiness, confusion, or sudden drops in blood pressure when standing.
· Take all medications as directed
· Talk to your provider about stopping any unnecessary medications
· Review your medications annually with your pharmacist and health care provider during your annual wellness visit
· Always talk with your provider before stopping any medication
· Medication alternatives such as yoga, massage, and meditation can help manage anxiety, pain, insomnia, and other conditions as well as help you maintain balance
Help stay independent and capable of everyday living activities like using the restroom, brushing teeth, dressing, and undressing with regular exercise and activity. Low-impact exercises such as Tai Chi, balance exercises, the Otago exercise program, and resistance bands can be done in the home, often with a DVD or online video routines.
Isolation is unhealthy for people of all ages, both physically and mentally. When able, spend time with friends and family, and participate in group activities at your church or senior center. Continue doing things you enjoy and seek behavioral health or counseling services if you are feeling depressed or anxious.
By following these recommendations, you can improve your quality of life and safety. While falls are sometimes unavoidable and do affect millions of people every day, making some easy changes to the home environment, diet, and daily routines while partnering with health care professionals can make all the difference.
If you would like to learn more about services for seniors, contact HopeHealth at (843) 667-9414 or visit hope-health.org.
Dana Jones is a family nurse practitioner certified by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Originally from Marion, S.C., she is a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. Jones began her nursing career more than 20 years ago and serves patients at HopeHealth at Bethea Retirement Community.