Preventing falls is an effective way to maintain independence. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 4 seniors age 65 and older fall each year. The CDC suggests four steps to keep in mind when considering fall prevention:
- Speak Up. Ask your doctor about fall risks. Express concerns openly. Also, speak with your pharmacist and doctor about any medications which could contribute to unsteadiness or dizziness.
- Keep Moving. Begin an exercise program to maintain leg strength and overall balance.
- Get an Annual Eye Exam. Check Your Feet. Replace eyeglasses as needed. Ask your doctor to check your feet and discuss proper footwear or if seeing a foot specialist is necessary.
- Make Your Home Safer. Remove clutter and tripping hazards. Install home safety equipment.
Home safety updates improve self-sufficiency and self-reliance along with comfort and security. Some things to consider: Install automatic night lighting near the bed and from the bed to the bathroom. Increase the brightness of your home. Is the path to the bathroom clear and unobstructed? Install grab bars inside and outside the shower and near the toilet. Consider toilet safety add-ons. Are there slippery bath mats outside tubs or showers? Remove all traditional bath mats and bathroom rugs and use an absorbable kitchen mat instead. If a rug can be moved easily with your foot, then it is a tripping hazard. Are tubs or shower floors non-slip? Permanent stick-on non-slip strips are better than removable suction mats. Is there an adjustable hand-held shower head? These convenient shower heads let seniors have the option to sit safely while showering. Is there a shower bench or chair?
In the kitchen, are often-used items within easy reach? Move frequently-used items down from high shelves and up from low shelves. Put them within easy arm’s reach. Keep all pathways to the bathroom and kitchen free of clutter. In the bedroom, can you reach items in the closet and drawers easily? Move frequently-worn clothing to places where it’s easiest to access. Avoid putting things on high shelves, the closet floor, or in drawers that are hard to open. Consider storage bins for items typically stored on the floor such as shoes. Stair safety is important. Are there handrails on both side of the stairs? Are the handrails secure? Keep stairs clear of clutter at all times.
Home modifications are necessary for fall prevention but maintaining strength and balance also plays a large role in independence. Even when physical activity starts in later life, it can lead to significant improvements in your health and quality of life. Choose activities that will build your endurance, increase your flexibility and improve your strength and balance. Remember to check with your doctor first and to start slowly. Have you had a check-up recently and talked to your doctor about increasing your physical activity? Think about starting a regular and appropriate physical activity which stimulates your muscles and heart. Walk rather than driving. Take the stairs rather than using the elevator. There are many simple exercises which can be done at home to improve strength and balance. Best of all, there’s no equipment needed! For example, sitting in a sturdy chair with your hands holding onto both sides of the seat, gently raise one leg a few inches and hold for 10 to 15 seconds alternating each leg. Begin with a few sets and gradually increase the number of sets. Sit up straight during these leg raises with your back firmly against the chair.
Physical activity plays an important role in the quality of life, your health, and general well-being. The benefits of becoming and staying active include: preventing heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and premature death. Exercise is proven to fight depression and help you sleep better. Increase your physical activity level slowly, about 10 minutes at a time. Every little bit counts. Every step counts. Listen to your body! If you experience pain or discomfort, stop!