While everyone loves to take an exciting trip from time to time, no one wants to take a trip to the emergency roomâ€”especially senior citizens. Yet, accidental falls, slips and trips are alarmingly common among older Americans, and often happen within the confines of what is normally considered a safe and comfortable home.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among those age 65 and older, and one third of seniors experience a fall each year. A bad fall can produce serious harm, such as head trauma, a hip fracture, lacerations or a broken arm. In fact, the CDC reports that more than 18,000 older adults suffered fatalities due to unintentional fall injuries, and in 2007, 81 percent of fall deaths were among people 65 and older.
â€œThe good news is that many of these falls are preventable with careful planning and lifestyle changes,â€ said Debbie Russo, owner, Senior Solutions For You, a Wheaton-based agency offering in-home and life care services to senior citizens. â€œSeniors who want to maintain an independent lifestyle need to take the proper precautions to reduce their chances of an unintentional fall by addressing three key areas.â€
1.Â Â Â Remove any hazards present in your home that can impede your ability to walk and get around freelyâ€”particularly items on the floor, noted Russo.
- Get rid of floor-bound clutter, boxes, stacks of newspapers or magazines and other unnecessary impediments found along your common pathways.
- To prevent tripping, tuck electrical cords out of the way, remove problematic throw rugs, and level out any uneven floors (have loose carpet professionally stretched, repair loose floorboards and replace high-stepping thresholds in doorways).
- In bathrooms and showers, use nonslip rubber mats and be sure proper grab bars are installed. Equip other key rooms and areas with railings and grab bars as needed.
- Immediately clean up any spilled liquids, including grease, beverages or foods, and use a non-skid cleaning product when cleaning the floors.
- Always wear quality supportive shoes with rubber soles that provide good traction.
- Install night lights that turn on automatically in any areas where you may be walking after bedtime.
2.Â Â Â Visit your health care providers for regular check-ups or when your mobility or vision is compromised, Russo recommended.
- Receive regular eye exams and get screened for diseases like cataracts and glaucoma, visual conditions such as nearsightedness and farsightedness, and systemic maladies like diabetes and hypertension. Itâ€™s vitally important not to skip visits to the optometrist or ophthalmologist, even though Medicare doesnâ€™t cover routine eye exams. Impaired vision is a major contributor to slips and falls among seniors.
- If you wear glasses or contacts, take care to clean and maintain them regularly.
- If you experience any pain or impairment in your feet, legs, knees or hips, visit a doctor right away.
- Have your physician assess your medications periodically or whenever you feel dizzy, unnaturally drowsy or more prone to falling. Often, a prescription or over-the-counter drug can provoke these symptoms and make you more susceptible to falling.
- To safeguard against hip fractures, get checked and treated for osteoporosis and get your doctorâ€™s permission to increase your intake of vitamin D and calcium.
3.Â Â Â Exercise more often and increase your physical activity when youâ€™re able, suggested Russo.
- Lack of appropriate physical fitness at any age can lead to weak muscle tone, bone loss and decreased flexibility, all of which can disrupt your balance and result in falls.
- Ask your doctor what exercise program or level of fitness activity is right for you.
- A yoga, swimming or low-impact aerobic class geared for seniors can increase muscle strength, bone density, flexion of motion, balance and coordination. A program that involves age-appropriate weight-bearing exercises is also recommended.
- Go for regular casual walks in the neighborhood to improve blood flow, stretch out joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles, boost endorphins and the immune system, and improve your mental health and attitude.
â€œDonâ€™t feel like a prisoner in your own home or an accident waiting to happen. Instead, follow suggested safety measures to decrease your risks of taking a serious tumble,â€ Russo added
As Benjamin Franklin once said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Safeguard your ability to get around on your own two feet and youâ€™re bound to live a longer, happier life.
Led by Debbie Russo, Senior Solutions For You is a Wheaton-based agency that caters to seniors in need of assistance, specializing in In home health care. Senior Solutions For You also offers a variety of services, including moving assistance, garage and estate sales, financial and legal services, help with insurance claims, and more. Debbie also currently teaches yoga classes for seniors in Plainfield, Schaumburg, Addison, Streamwood, and Elk Grove Village. For more information, phone (630) 885-0606 , e-mail Debbie at Debbie@seniorsolutionsforyou.com or visit SeniorSolutionsForYou.com