Falls by older adults are the main reason why seniors lose their independence. New Mexico has one of the highest fall-related death rates in the U.S. Only 25% of those who are hospitalized due to falls return to their homes.
However, falls do not have to be a ‘normal’ part of aging, according to fall assessment trainer and physical therapist Janet Popp, even though a number of health conditions can affect balance and result in falls. “There are many things you can do to prevent falls,” she assured attendees of a recent workshop sponsored by the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation in Albuquerque. “There are ways to compensate for, modify, or improve your environment and health. Make sure you do the easy stuff first.”
Throw rugs are one of the biggest causes of falls in the home. It’s just too easy to catch your toe on the edge of most rugs, or to slide on a rug lacking slip-proof backing. When home safety assessments are done by the care consultants at Companion Care, we recommend that these rugs are removed or replaced with rugs with beveled edges so as not to trip up unwary toes.
Another basic strategy is to use a cane or walker. Pride should not supersede safety and common sense. One of our clients with vision challenges refused to use a cane because he “didn’t want to look old.” He tripped when he didn’t see a sidewalk ramp, fell and shattered his hip. The resulting complications ended with his death six weeks later. It was very sad and completely avoidable – a big price to pay for vanity.
Popp provided a list of steps that anyone can do to prevent falls. Here are her top 10 recommendations:
- Remove tripping hazards such as throw rugs
- Wear shoes that provide support and stability, not scuffs and thongs.
- Take a Vitamin D-3 supplement daily, minimum 800 units (up to 2000 mg if deficient)
- Use a cane or walker for stability if you have balance or vision challenges
- Wear single lens eyeglasses when walking, especially outdoors
- Begin an exercise program to improve leg strength and balance.
- Get an annual eye exam & update your eyeglass prescription.
- Ask your doctor to review your medications as part of your annual check-up.
- Install railings on all stairs, add grab bars to bathroom shower (and toilet if necessary)
- Add/improve lighting, especially on stairs.
For more information, talk to a Companion Care consultant at 505-293-5858