“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
One-third of adults age 65 and older falls each year. For our elderly population, falls result in moderate and severe injuries, including:
- Hip, spine, leg or arm fractures
- Head trauma
- Loss of mobility
Falls are the leading cause of death from injury and the primary cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma for people over age 65.
Aval-Na’Ree S. Green, MD, Geriatric Medicine, offers some tips to avoid falls.
“If you are on medication that could potentially lower your blood pressure, you need to pay attention to how it makes you feel.”
“If you are on medication that could potentially lower your blood pressure, you need to pay attention to how it makes you feel,” advises Dr. Green.
“If you have any dizziness or balance trouble, ask your doctor if your medicines may be contributing to that. That’s probably the single most important thing to do,” counsels Dr. Green.
Physical Therapy & Exercise
“The second thing is—if you know your gait is unstable or you feel unsteady on your feet, ask your doctor for a referral for physical therapy,” says Dr. Green, “so they can work with you on gait, balance and strengthening.”
“If you don’t feel like your gait and stability rise to that level, exercise classes with a balance component—such as tai chi—are really good at preventing falls,” suggests Dr. Green.
“Take a look around your home at those things that might pose a fall risk for you—or have a home-health agency or occupational therapist come to your home to perform a formal safety evaluation,” Dr. Green recommends.
Here are some tips Dr. Green suggests for avoiding falls around your home:
- Throw rugs—Remove them or make sure they’re secure
- Hardwood floors—Don’t have them heavily waxed
- Low-lying furniture—Move coffee tables, stools, etc., out of walkways
- Lighting—Make sure you have adequate lighting (at least 100w bulbs) in every room
- Cords—Move cords to lamps or electronic equipment out of walkways
- Bathrooms—Hang bathmats over side of tub or towel rack during the day
- At night—Light the pathway from your bedroom to your bathroom
- Stairs—Place a light at the top and bottom of stairs and install a banister on all stairs
Tips for avoiding falls outside your home:
- Sidewalks—Repair unlevel or cracked sidewalks
- Steps—Add or repair railing alongside steps to home
- Shrubbery—Trim back any shrubs or hedges alongside sidewalk to house
- Lighting—Make sure entryway to home has adequate lighting
Dr. Green says that with proper preparation, you can greatly reduce your risk of falls.
However, Dr. Green advises, if you do fall, it’s very important—even if you didn’t get injured—to tell your doctor that you fell. Your doctor needs to be aware of your full health history, including falls.