The Wellness Corner … by Judith Wallace, RN, FCN
Fall prevention may not seem particularly interesting, but it's important. As we get older, physical changes and health conditions - and sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions - make falls more likely. About 1 out of 10 falls results in serious injury requiring hospitalization. Be proactive and consider six simple fall-prevention strategies.
1. Review your medications. Make an appointment with your primary care provider (PCP) to review all of the medications (prescription and non-prescription) you are currently using. Certain medications or combinations of medications can make you more susceptible to falling. Your doctor may consider adjusting your medication regimen - especially if you've had a recent fall.
In addition, certain eye and ear disorders may increase your risk of falls. Be prepared to discuss with your PCP your health conditions and how comfortable you are when you walk - for example, do you feel any dizziness, joint pain, numbness or shortness of breath when you walk?
Many people see a variety of specialists who don't always update one another about medications they've prescribed. Consequently, you may be taking combinations that contribute to balance issues or other adverse symptoms. Your PCP, as the coordinator of your care, will review your "big picture" and suggest alternative combinations if you are perhaps taking medications that conflict with one another.
Your doctor may evaluate your muscle strength, balance and walking style (gait) as well. He may recommend certain exercises to improve your balance and walking.
2. Keep moving. Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. With your doctor's OK, consider activities such as walking, water workouts or tai chi - a gentle exercise that involves slow and graceful dance-like movements. Such activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. Many senior centers or community centers offer these programs on a regular basis. Right now, during COVID19 precautions, your primary option may be walking...take advantage of pleasant fall weather and do some walking.
If you avoid physical activity because you're afraid it will make a fall more likely, tell your doctor. He or she may recommend carefully monitored exercise programs or refer you to a physical therapist.
3. Wear sensible shoes. Chances are if you've fallen while walking, your footwear is a probable culprit. High heels, flopping slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. So can walking in your stocking feet. Instead, buy properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles. Avoid shoes with extra-thick soles.
Choose lace-up shoes instead of slip-ons, and keep the laces tied. If you have trouble tying laces, select footwear with Velcro fasteners.
4. Remove home hazards. Take a look around your home - it may be filled with hazards. To make your home safer: Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways. Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands away from high-traffic areas. Secure loose "throw rugs" with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing - or remove loose rugs from your home. Repair loose, wooden floorboards and carpeting right away. Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach. Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food. Use nonslip mats in your bathtub or shower.
5. Light up your living space. Keep your home brightly lighted to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see in the shadows. Also, place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways. Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.
6. Use assistive devices. Don't let pride lead to a fall. Add assistive devices throughout your home such as: hand rails for both sides of stairways, nonslip treads for bare-wood steps, a raised toilet seat or one with armrests, grab bars for the shower or tub, a sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub - plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down.
Falls can be devastating, but many are preventable. Talk to your doctor, or contact me for more information.
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