Courtesy: Ho‘okele Care at Home
Healthy aging isn’t just about avoiding illnesses and diseases; it’s also about enjoying life, and that means maintaining a healthy lifestyle, keeping physically and mentally active and staying socially connected.
Prevention is an important part of healthy aging. It’s about taking positive steps to keep mobile and independent.
The first step in preventing falls is learning about the hazards that can put you at risk of falling. They can range from changes in your eyesight or your surroundings, such as a slippery floor or an uneven sidewalk, or even a combination of factors, such as wearing unsafe footwear on a slippery sidewalk. Recognizing risk factors and identifying things you can change is the first step in reducing your chances of falling.
STEP 1: KEEP ACTIVE
The best thing you can do to reduce your risk of falling is to stay physically active. The types of activity most effective in preventing falls are those that increase muscle strength in the lower limbs and the upper body and improve balance, posture, coordination and endurance. These include:
- Tai chi, yoga, pilates
- Walking, swimming, golf
- Gardening, housework, washing the car
STEP 2: MANAGE YOUR MEDICATIONS
All medications have side effects, some of which can increase your risk of falling. It’s important that you talk with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you feel drowsy, dizzy, light-headed, unsteady, have blurred or double vision or difficulty thinking clearly.
- Keep an updated list of the medications you take and your dosage.
- Know why you are taking the medications on your list.
- Ask questions and learn about your medications.
- Limit the use of alcohol, as it may interact with your medications.
STEP 3: FOOT CARE AND SAFE FOOTWEAR
Foot problems can affect your balance and change the way you walk, putting you at risk of falling. If you have any foot pain or foot problems, see your doctor or a podiatrist.
Shoes with high heels or slippery soles, or shoes that do not fit properly can cause you to lose your balance and are a contributing factor in many falls. Remember, good-fitting footwear can help you maintain a safe walking pattern and proper balance.
STEP 4: CHECK YOUR EYESIGHT
Changes in your eyes can affect your vision over time. Many of these changes occur gradually, so you may not notice them immediately. Blurred vision, teary eyes, adjusting to light changes, sensitivity to glare, depth perception and development of eye disorders are the most common changes to the eyes.
- Get your eyes checked annually by your ophthalmologist and wear eyeglasses or contact lenses with the right prescription strength to ensure that you are seeing clearly.
- If you use reading glasses or multifocal lenses, take them off when you are walking, as they can distort your sense of distance and result in a fall.
STEP 5: IDENTIFY AND REMOVE
HAZARDS AT HOME
Nearly half of all injuries to older adults happen in the home, and most are due to falls. Inspecting your home and taking action to prevent injuries can help you live comfortably and safely in your own home. The following checklist can help older adults reduce the risk of falling at home:
- Remove items that you could trip over;
- Install good lighting;
- Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep rugs from slipping;
- Keep frequently used items in low cabinets that you can easily access without using a stepping stool;
- Install grab bars inside and next to your bathtub or shower as well as next to your toilet;
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors; and
- Install handrails and lights in all staircases.
Falls are not a normal part of aging. Understanding that falls can happen to anyone, regardless of age, will help everyone take falls more seriously and find ways to safeguard yourself and others from falling before it happens. Preventing falls is about realizing that you can influence your mobility and independence. You can take steps to stay mobile and independent and prevent falls before they happen.
Valerie Takahashi is director of business development for Ho‘okele Care at Home.