Are you or someone you know afraid of falling? For some older adults, the fear of falling is constant. As a result, older adults may restrict or even avoid certain daily activities and doing the things they enjoy. Those who develop this fear risk physical weakness, making the risk of falling even greater.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), each year one in four Americans over the age of 65 has a fall. More than 3 million injuries are treated in emergency departments annually because of falls, resulting in over 800,000 hospitalizations according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While falls are not an “official” sign of aging, they are unfortunately common and can threaten the health and independence of older adults. A number of factors may contribute to a risk of falling including diabetes, heart disease, medications that may cause dizziness or drowsiness, and vision or hearing changes. A fall could also indicate a new or worsening health condition.
Here are a few safety steps that you can take to help prevent falls:
Wear sensible shoes. Choose footwear that has a low-heel and a non-skid sole. Even when you are at home, opt for footwear that is supportive, provides traction, and stays put on your feet (unlike some slippers). Sneakers are a good example.
Eliminate trip hazards in your home. Remove “throw rugs” that may shift when you walk on them and potentially cause you to slip or trip. Make sure that small furniture and other objects (foot stools, magazine racks, floor plants, wastepaper baskets, etc.) are not in the way as you walk through your home.
Watch out for slippery surfaces. Whether it’s a wet floor or an icy walkway, don’t take a chance. Avoid walking on these areas.
Take it slow. For some older adults, bending over or standing up may cause dizziness; this may be attributed to medication or a medical issue. Sometimes standing up too quickly can cause a drop in blood pressure, which causes a feeling of unsteadiness. Move slowly and with care.
Good lighting. Don’t try to maneuver around your home in the dark. Always turn the lights on.
Consider using night lights in the bathroom and hallways. Keep a flashlight in your bedside table in case the power goes out.
Falls Prevention Awareness Week is a national campaign that begins on Wednesday, September 22, 2021. As a nonprofit agency serving older adults and individuals with disabilities throughout Plymouth County and surrounding towns, Old Colony Elder Services (OCES) has a Healthy Living Program that offers “A Matter of Balance” virtual workshops.
A Matter of Balance is an evidence-based program that emphasizes practical strategies to control and manage or avoid falls. Participants in the program learn to:
- View falls as controllable;
- Set goals for increasing activity;
- Make changes to reduce fall risks at home; and
- Exercises to increase strength and balance.
To learn more about A Matter of Balance programs or for more information about fall prevention, contact OCES’ Healthy Living Program at 508-584-1561 or visit www.ocesma.org.