It is no secret that as we age, our bodies are less sturdy, our gait can be less balanced. Too often, pride is the greatest obstacle to making changes to reduce the risk of falls or injury.
PRIDE: keeps us from removing throw rugs (the single greatest tripping hazard in any home).
PRIDE: keeps us from asking for help to do things we used to do with confidence. (I remember the alarm I felt when I discovered my 88 year old mother was changing her own ceiling lightbulbs – standing on a stool, reaching up over her head).
PRIDE: keeps us from using assistive devices (especially canes and walkers) when our doctor or family has asked us to.
PRIDE: leads us to believe we are unbreakable if we do fall.
PRIDE…will get you in trouble!
A fall with a fracture can be a sentinel event. 30% of people over the age of 80 who suffer a fractured hip die within the year, because it is that taxing on one’s health and stamina. Risk of injury is increased if one is taking blood thinners. A fall with a bonk to the head can be an inconvenience for some, but a deadly experience for those on anticoagulants. Blood pressure medications can cause dizziness – rise slowly, don’t walk off until you feel steady.
Clearly, the best thing to do is NOT FALL!
Look for tripping hazards in your home, and consider ways to remove them.
- Throw rugs can be secured with double sided carpet tape, but are still a significant hazard. Can you remove them altogether? Uneven flooring can also be hazardous.
- Mind your pets and their toys. They can be small enough to not notice, large enough to cause tripping.
- Make sure your walkways are free from clutter, especially at the end of the day.
- Provide good lighting to those paths you walk, especially at night.
- Ask for help when you need it, and if you have to do something risky (changing light bulbs, getting into a high cupboard), make sure someone knows what you are up to.
- Wear comfortable, non-slip foot wear that give you good support.
- If you live alone, please consider a Life Alert type call system. They are well worth the cost. Find a Call Buddy – someone you agree to check in with at the same time every day. Make a back up plan for what to do if you call and they don’t answer when you expect them to!
Balance and strength come from our core muscles. Find an exercise class or home program that gently helps strengthen muscles and improves balance. Elastic muscles are strong muscles, older adults who exercise daily are less likely to have a fall, and less likely to suffer severe injury if they do. It is never too late to begin toning and strengthening! Swimming, yoga, walking, tai chi, are good forms of exercises that are easy on the joints.
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