Educating Seniors: Bring Your Health… Home ~ Keeping Yourself Upright and Preventing Fall Injuries
By Kimberly Harmon RN, BSN
Among adults 65+, falls are the leading cause of injury death and are the most common cause of nonfatal injuries. While you probably know a lot about how to keep your heart healthy, you may not know as much about the perils of falling. In this article, you’ll get some tips on how you can prevent falls.
As we age, our chances of falling and of being seriously injured in a fall increase. In 2009, the rate of fall injuries for adults 85+ was almost four times that for adults 65 to 74. Hip fractures are the most frequent type of fall-related fracture: falls cause more than 90% of hip fractures.
The most effective way to prevent fall injuries such as hip fractures is to combine exercise (activities like walking, water aerobics or tai chi reduce your risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility ~ just be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program) with these other fall prevention strategies:
• Take vitamins: Make sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet ~ doublecheck with your doctor before incorporating these into your diet, though.
• Keep an eye on your medications: Some medicines ~ or combinations of meds ~ can have side effects like dizziness or drowsiness, making falls more likely. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines ~ both prescription and OTC ~ to identify medicines that may cause negative side effects or interactions.
• Keep an eye on your eyes: To maximize your vision, get your eyes checked annually and update your eyeglasses. Consider getting a pair with single vision distance lenses for some activities ~ such as walking outside.
• Eliminate hazards at home. About half of all falls happen at home. Make your home safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding stair railings, and improving the lighting in your home.
• Keep lights on for safety! Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on hard-to-see objects. Place nightlights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways; clear paths to light switches that aren’t near room entrances and turn on the lights before you go up or down stairs.
While falls threaten the health and independence of older adults, the opportunity to reduce falls has never been better. And if you’re worried about the cost, remember that an investment in fall prevention is an investment in your independence.
As always, the Auburn VNA Health Network Team is available for your health and wellness needs with a complete range of home care services. For more information, please call us at 508-791-0081. Be happy, be well, and be safe!
Kimberly Harmon is President and CEO of the Auburn VNA Health Network. AVHN provides more than 19,000 home visits annually to more than 700 individuals in Auburn, Worcester and surrounding towns. Kim welcomes your questions, comments or concerns about any specific health issues. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or AVHN.org.