Preventing Falls For Those Over 65
Persons age 65 and older have a higher risk of injury or fatality from falls at work, home or while outside. In 2003 over 13,700 persons aged 65 and older died from injuries they sustained in falls.
In the same year 1.8 million Americans aged 65 or older were treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal fall related injuries. The cost in human pain and suffering is enormous. Take in to consideration the financial cost of a fall and the ramifications from just one fall are mind-boggling.
In 2000 total U.S. costs attributed to nonfatal falls were $12 billion (Stevens 2006). The most common injury cited in emergency rooms is fractures. Other injuries sustained due to falls are: brain, soft tissue, and wounds. Falls happen for a number of reasons and can happen at any age.
The elderly are more susceptible due to problems with balance, poor eyesight, miss stepping, dizziness, and also mobility issues. Preventing falls requires that these issues be addressed.
Steps that can be taken to help reduce the risk of falling are: to begin a realistic exercise program, improve home safety, have regular health checkups, and maintain healthy eye care.
Exercise: A well planned exercise program that is constructed around your abilities and age will give your bones the activity they need to rebound (replace old bone cells) and strengthen the bone. Lack of exercise weakens not only the bones but your support muscles as well which increases the likelihood of a fall.
Seek exercise advice from your physician so that the activities you plan on doing will be matched to your abilities, health and age. There are many community exercise programs that are geared for seniors that are fun to participate in. Taking a leisurely stroll to admire the neighbors yards or a local park with a friend or family member will get you out into the sunshine and fresh air for a while and will do wonders for your spirit and body.
Swimming is another enjoyable activity, as well as gardening. Home Safety: Approximately half of falls occur in our homes, so inspecting them to adjust what needs to be to make them safe is always a good idea. Periodic inspections of the home should be done on a seasonal basis.
Do a room by room visual inspection paying close attention to the following areas: Look at the floor area for things that can be tripped over like - papers left lying on the floor, books scattered there as well as clothes left in walkways. I big culprit are shoes left by doorways and stairways. Loose rugs are unsafe, so either remove them or use double-sided tape to secure them to the floor.
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Look at your cabinets and organize the items you use most often down low, where you can easily reach them without stretching. Use a stepstool (with handles or rubber feet) to grab those places that are out of your normal reach. Install grab bars by your toilet, tub and shower to assist in getting up and down or out safety. Always use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower. If you must use bar soap secure it after each use, so that it doesn't get on the tub or shower floor.
Inspect the room lighting so that there are no shadows around walking areas or stairs. If glare from the brighter lights becomes an issue, use lampshades or frosted bulbs. Make sure all stairways have handrails and are well lit. After you have inspected the rooms and stairways in your home, you can turn your attention to your feet. Shoes can lower your risk for fall if you choose them carefully. Shoes should offer you good support and have non-slip soles that are thin. Slippers and athletic shoes with deep treads can increase your risk of falls so stay clear of them.
Volunteer on a regular basis. Help out at a shelter or do other work to benefit charities. It improves your community and it also helps you feel useful. Plus you get to experience the joy of helping others.
Medical Checkups: Keep your regular medical and vision appointments to stay on top of what can keep your healthy and strong. Your eyes are important to your mobility, so take good care of them. Your physician and eye doctor can recommend more tips to reducing your fall risk. Source: Stevens JA, Corso PS, Finkelstein EA, Miller TR. The costs of fatal and nonfatal falls among older adults. Injury Prevention 2006;12:2905.
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