by Dr. Vincent Ibelli of Orangetown Family Practice
Keep seniors independent by preventing falls
Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence, and are the leading cause of injury deaths for older Americans. One-third of Americans ages 65 and older fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many older adults limit their activities because they are fearful of falling. This can result in social isolation, depression and feeling helpless and can contribute to physical decline.
Learn how to protect yourself or your elderly loved ones from dangerous falls by taking some simple steps and making adjust- ments in the home.
The first step in preventing falls is to make an appointment with your doctor to review your medications. Some drugs, such as sedatives, can cause side effects that increase the risk of falling. Tell your doctor about any dizziness, numbness, joint pain, or shortness of breath when you walk.
Exercise, such as walking or swimming, can reduce the risk of falls by improving your strength, flexibility, balance and coordination. Your doctor can recommend a safe exercise program for you, or refer you to a physical therapist who will design a custom program tailored to your needs.
Other tips to reduce falls include:
• Take a close look at your footwear. Choose sturdy shoes with nonskid soles, and avoid high heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles.
• Make your home safer by removing potential tripping hazards such as boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways. Use double-faced tape or a slip-resistant backing to secure loose rugs, or remove the rugs altogether. Use non-slip mats in the shower or bathtub, and use nonskid floor wax.
• Make sure your home is brightly lit, to help you avoid tripping on objects that are difficult to see. Put night lights in the bedroom, hallways and bathroom, and have a lamp within easy reach of your bed for when you get up in the middle of the night.
Incorporating these steps and increasing awareness of your surroundings will help keep you safe.