September is Fall Prevention Month!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year, one in every three adults aged 65 or older will suffer a fall. It is likely that such a fall will result in moderate to severe injuries, including hip fractures and head trauma. It is also well known that many falls such as these can lead to an early death.
Of course, we’d all rather not think of these things, but the good news is, thinking about them is exactly what can help prevent them—because, if we recognize the risk factors and take a few simple steps to address them, we are helping to alleviate a health problem that is actually pretty preventable.
The first step is learning what to look for. Let’s talk about common signs that tell us a fall is likely to occur—before it actually does:
Lack of Fitness
This can apply to younger folks as well, but it is especially telling in older adults. Exercise is known to help people stay independent as they age. Regular exercise helps people to build strength, heighten their reflexes and maintain balance.
Episodes of Dizziness or Drowsiness
Medications or some underlying health issue often cause this. If you or your loved one experiences dizziness or drowsiness, get it checked out right away—it could mean the difference between a mobile future or a crippling fall.
Out-of-Date Eyeglass Prescriptions
It makes sense that vision problems can cause a fall. When we can’t see very well, certain obstacles become major hazards to us. Regular eye check ups and appropriate prescriptions (like single vision distance lenses for outside activities) can be really helpful.
A Cluttered or Unmaintained Home
If we have less to avoid, there are less obstacles that could catch us off guard. Also, when holes in steps are repaired and railings are installed or maintained we significantly reduce risk in the home.
Poor Nutrition and Dehydration
As we age, our bodies may need a different kind of nutritional support, or supplemental support. Our bodies also don’t have the ability to “bounce back” like they did when we were young. It’s important that we are getting enough vitamins and nutrients. For example, calcium and vitamin D can help to lower the risk of fractures by preventing our bones from becoming more brittle. Dehydration is also a known factor for dizziness and a drop in blood pressure that occurs when we get up from lying down or sitting.
Even for young people, high heels, backless shoes or smooth leather soles can cause a fall. In combination with other risk factors in older adults, that can be a recipe for disaster. Make sure that you or your loved ones have shoes with good, level, rubber soles that provide grip and stability.
Lack of Preparedness
It’s no secret that streets and sidewalks can get treacherous in winter. This is especially true in Alaska. Making sure that you have appropriate footwear, clothing, and support tools/resources for navigating snow and ice is a great way to prevent a fall.
A Frantic Pace
We know that life really doesn’t slow down when we retire. Usually, it gets busier. But, that doesn’t mean we should rush around. The benefit of retirement is more time, and therefore, we need to give it to ourselves. Falls often occur because someone was moving too fast and not paying close enough attention to their surroundings.
These are just a few signs that indicate the risk of a fall. Luckily, if you address them now, you will reduce the likelihood significantly!