As Mom and Dad age in a family dynamic we like to think they’ll never change…they won’t forget, they won’t deteriorate or get hurt, get sick minimally and live long and healthy lives. However, as most of us have already faced playing the role of caregivers for our aging loved ones; that almost all of this we will experience or encounter at one point or another. These are never fun situations to be in but all can be prevented to an extent by precautions and proper health management. September being Fall Prevention Awareness month we thought it would be fun to identify some “Myths” about falls (who knew a fall could have a myth behind it!) Along with some ways we can encourage families to work with your loved ones to prevent that dreadful disaster.
Myth 1: Falling happens to other people, not to me.
Reality: Many people think, “It won’t happen to me.” But the truth is that 1 in 3 older adults—about 12 million—fall every year in the U.S.
Myth 2: Falling is something normal that happens as you get older.
Reality: Falling is not a normal part of aging. Strength and balance exercises, managing your medications, having your vision checked and making your living environment safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.
Myth 3: If I limit my activity, I won’t fall.
Reality: Some people believe that the best way to prevent falls is to stay at home and limit activity. Not true. Performing physical activities will actually help you stay independent, as your strength and range of motion benefit from remaining active. Social activities are also good for your overall health.
Myth 4: Muscle strength and flexibility can’t be regained.
Reality: While we do lose muscle as we age, exercise can partially restore strength and flexibility. It’s never too late to start an exercise program. Even if you’ve been a “couch potato” your whole life, becoming active now will benefit you in many ways—including protection from falls
Myth 5: Taking medication doesn’t increase my risk of falling.
Reality: Taking any medication may increase your risk of falling. Medications affect people in many different ways and can sometimes make you dizzy or sleepy. Be careful when starting a new medication. Talk to your health care provider about potential side effects or interactions of your medications.
Myth 6: I don’t need to get my vision checked every year.
Reality: Vision is another key risk factor for falls. Aging is associated with some forms of vision loss that increase risk of falling and injury. People with vision problems are more than twice as likely to fall as those without visual impairment. Have your eyes checked at least once a year and update your eyeglasses.
Myth 7: Using a walker or cane will make me more dependent.
Reality: Walking aids are very important in helping many older adults maintain or improve their mobility. However, make sure you use these devices safely. Have a physical therapist fit the walker or cane to you and instruct you in its safe use.
Here are 6 easy steps you can take to help your older loved one reduce their risk of a fall:
1. Enlist their support in taking simple steps to stay safe. Ask your older loved ones if they’re concerned about falling.
2. Discuss their current health conditions.
Find out if your older loved one is experiencing any problems with managing their own health. Are they having trouble remembering to take their medications—or are they experiencing side effects? Is it getting more difficult for them to do things they used to do easily?
3. Ask about their last eye checkup. If your older loved one wears glasses, make sure they have a current prescription and they’re using the glasses as advised by their eye doctor.
4. Notice if they’re holding onto walls, furniture, or someone else when walking or if they appear to have difficulty walking or arising from a chair. These are all signs that it might be time to see a physical therapist. A trained physical therapist can help your older loved one improve their balance, strength, and gait through exercise.
5. Talk about their medications. If your older loved one is having a hard time keeping track of medicines or is experiencing side effects, encourage them to discuss their concerns with their doctor and pharmacist.
6. Do a walk-through safety assessment of their home.
There are many simple and inexpensive ways to make a home safer. For professional assistance, you can contact our MSHC office for a Home Safety Assessment.