What if we could increase fall prevention and the possible death of 14 million people in the U.S., and over 1 million in Florida alone? The good news is that we can make a difference! Falls are the most common and preventable cause of injury in adults over 65 and older according to the Centers for Disease Control. Falls often result in injuries such as hip fractures, head injuries or even death.
September 22nd is National Fall Prevention Day. Now is the perfect time to look at your family’s fall risk factors and minimize those risks to prevent falls among those you love.
Risk factors that can lead to a fall include the following:
Medication: Consult with your doctor or pharmacist to develop the best medication plan for you or your aging parent. Medications can interact with each other to increase the risk of falling. Be sure to create a new medication plan each time there is a change in your dosage. A medication plan may not only include the right prescriptions, but may include the time of day each should be taken, what to take it with and precautions once you take the medication. There are many different medication reminders and tools available to assist you in taking your medications as prescribed and according to the medication plan.
Vision: Our vision changes as we age, making potential hazards and obstacles difficult to perceive. Other vision changes such as cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma increase the risk of falling. It is important to monitor vision changes and maintain your visual health. Note that progressive lenses may make navigating stairs and other surfaces more of a challenge. A great daily tip would be removing sunglasses before entering your home. While most eye doctors are fantastic at evaluating the health of your eyes, it’s likely a prescriber’s focus on fall prevention might not be possible due to time constraints.
Balance, strength and flexibility: How often do you exercise? A lack of exercise leads to muscle weakness as well as increases your risk of falling. The great news is that balance, strength and flexibility can be improved at any age! Silver Sneakers has evidenced-based research documenting the benefits related to fall prevention. Look for a program in your local community. If you are struggling with some of the simple physical aspects of your day such as holding onto walls when you walk or difficulty raising from a chair it may be time to consult a health care professional. A mobility plan can be detailed and designed to increase mobility over time.
Environment: Most of our home environments have potential hazards and obstacles that can lead to a fall. There are many simple changes that can make the home environment safer. Here is a list of recommended suggestions:
- Clear a walkway. Remove potential hazards such as electrical cords, shoes and papers in high traffic areas.
- Remove or secure throw rugs to prevent the rugs from slipping.
- Organize your kitchen and other areas of your home so that commonly used items are easy to reach. Place highly used items on the first shelf in the kitchen.
- Increase the wattage of your lighting.
- Use non-slip mats in your tub and shower floors.
- Consider installing grab bars in your bathroom near the toilet as well as in the tub and shower areas.
A qualified occupational therapist can complete a thorough home environment assessment to address less obvious but dangerous issues that will provide you and your family peace-of-mind by minimizing the risk of falling. Occupational therapists are medically trained professionals that are able to assist in the process of home adaptations as well as teach safe and efficient ways to accomplish activities within your home.
This article is written by Melissa Myers and Deborah Smith. Melissa and Deborah are occupational therapists and co-owners of Forever Home Solutions. For more information visit their web site at www.ForeverHomeSolutionsFL.com or call (941) 400-7389 or (941) 376-1898. The CaringTimes blog of Sarasota & Manatee Counties is designed to be a resource for families caring for adults with disabilities and aging seniors. Periodically, members of the community will guest author on topics relating to adult disability and aging seniors. Today, we invited Melissa Myers and Deborah Smith, licensed occupational therapists to share their insight to the CaringTimes community.