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Each year, thousands of older adults fall at home and in the community. Among adults age 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death. Many older adults who fall suffer severe injuries, such as fractured hips and head injuries. These injuries can make it more difficult for an older adult to get around or continue to live independently. Even when they are not injured after falling, older adults who fall often develop a fear of falling. This fear, in turn, can cause them to limit their physical activities, which makes them less mobile and less fit. This loss of mobility and fitness places them at an increased risk of suffering other illnesses and injuries. Fortunately, there are a number of steps that can be taken to reduce the chances of an older adult falling.What You Can Do to Prevent Falls
There are many steps that older adults can take to reduce their risks of falling and at the same time, enhance their ability to live independently. These steps include the following:
- Exercise Regularly - Exercises that are designed to increase leg strength and improve balance are recommended. Recently, health facilities have begun offering Tai Chi classes that are designed to improve balance and coordination in older adults. Lack of exercise can lead to weakness and deconditioning, which increases your chances of falling.
- Have a Professional Review Your Medications - A doctor or pharmacist is capable of reviewing all of the medications you take, including over-the-counter medicines, and determining whether there are side-effects or interactions that could cause dizziness or drowsiness. Being sleepy or unsteady on your feet can cause you to fall. There may be alternative medications that can be prescribed that would reduce these unwanted side-effects.
- Have Your Vision Checked Regularly - Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. You may have a condition like glaucoma or cataracts that impairs your vision. The prescription for your eyeglasses may be outdated. Poor vision increases the risks of falling.
- Make Your Home Safer - Falls may be caused by hazards in the home that are overlooked but easy to fix. There are many things that you can do to make your home safer, including the following:
- Remove items that could cause you to trip, such as papers, books, clothes and shoes, from areas where you walk so that you always have a clear path.
- Have grab bars installed next to your toilet and in the tub and shower, and use non-slip mats in the tub and shower.
- Improve the lighting in your home. Older adults need brighter lights to see well. Place night lights next to your bed, so that you can turn on the lights before getting out of bed.
- Place items you use often in cabinets or on shelves that you can reach without having to use a step stool or ladder.
For more information, go to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) web page entitled Falls Among Older Adults: An Overview.
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