The National Council on Aging (NCOA) states that, “falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs.” They report one in four adults over the age of 65 fall each year and account for more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency rooms annually, and result in over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
However they say falls do not have to be an inevitable result of aging. Rather with some practical lifestyle adjustments as well as public campaigns on how to reduce the problem from the NCOA and other organizations, the number of yearly falls can be reduced. The NCOA’s evidence-based Falls Free® National Action Plan was updated in 2015, and includes “goals, strategies and action steps to increase physical mobility, reduce the impact of medications as a falls risk factor, and improve home and environmental safety.”
The National Institute on Aging explains some of the steps seniors can take to help protect themselves from a fall. The first thing is to stay physically active. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking or climbing stairs improves muscles strength and keeps joints, tendon, and ligaments more flexible. Another fall-prevention tip is to have your eyes and hearing tested. If you need glasses, wear them, and if you have a hearing aid, wear it.
In addition ask your healthcare provider if your medications have side effects that can make you dizzy or sleepy. It is also important to get enough sleep and to limit the amount of alcohol you drink as even a small amount can affect your balance.
Stand up slowly, and have your blood pressure checked if you feel dizzy. If you feel wobbly when walking, use an assistive device such as a cane or walker. A physical or occupational therapist can help you choose the right device and teach you how to safely use it.
During wet or icy conditions, use extra caution when walking, and always wear non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes. Lace-up shoes give you the ability to adjust the amount of support you need, but do not buy shoes with soles that are too thin or too thick. Around the house, wear shoes or slippers with non-slip bottoms.
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