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Preventing falls all year long

Created date

April 24th, 2015

One important step we can all take to maintain our health and well-being is preventing falls. This is highlighted by the fact that up to 30% of seniors who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries, including lacerations, hip fractures, and head trauma. These injuries can make it difficult to live independently and can also increase your risk of early death. Another sobering thought: Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among people age 65 and older.

You may not think about preventing falls like you think about preventing heart disease or diabetes, but falls are preventable. And since slippery surfaces can be a problem in any season, you need to be especially careful both inside and outside.

What you can do

Make your home safer in general by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars and railings, and improving the lighting. Keep your porch, deck, walkways, and driveway free of leaves, snow, trash, or clutter. Cover porch steps with a gritty, weatherproof paint and install handrails on both sides if needed. 

When you’re walking outside, wear low-heeled shoes with rubber soles for more solid footing. In very cold weather, wear warm boots so you won’t lose feeling in your feet, and be careful on windy days, especially getting in and out of your car. Consider wearing hip protectors or hip pads for added protection should you fall. If sidewalks look slippery, walk in the grass. 

If you fall or you notice problems with your gait or balance, see your doctor as soon as you can. It’s important to catch problems early so you can avoid falls and stay as independent as possible. Bring all of your medicines for your doctor to review (both prescription and over-the-counter). You might need some medications to be changed or dosages adjusted because side effects or interactions may cause dizziness, drowsiness, or balance problems. 

Your doctor may recommend exercise or balance classes which can be a very effective prevention strategy. Another recommendation may be to have a physical therapy evaluation or consideration of an assistive device such as a cane or walker. Occupational therapists can do a home safety evaluation as well on referral from your physician.

Once again, if you have experienced a fall or feel that you have gait or balance problems, please see your medical provider for further evaluation. Remember, falls and related injuries can be prevented.