We tend to associate dangerous falls with growing older, but this isn’t exactly the case. While it’s true that falls are a leading cause of injury and hospitalization for adults over 65, the reason for increased fall risk isn’t strictly related to the number of candles on your birthday cake. Oftentimes, a variety of factors can put seniors at risk for falling, but senior fall prevention is possible with these tips.
A recent study revealed that older adults in several counties throughout the Western Slope—including Mesa County and neighboring Delta and Montrose counties—have a higher-than-average risk of falling, based on a variety of factors like existing health challenges and higher rates of cognitive conditions.
With national Fall Prevention Awareness Day fast approaching, our team at The Lodge at Grand Junction wanted to take an opportunity to share some easy ways to reduce fall risk, along with tips for preventing unnecessary falls altogether.
1. Stay Active
There are a variety of fitness programs you can incorporate into your daily routine that can help prevent falls. Staying active contributes to stronger muscles and improved flexibility, making it easier to maintain balance. As we age, our bodies naturally start to lose muscle mass. This is particularly detrimental as it can affect mobility and make day-to-day tasks more tiring. Unexpected falls from muscle weakness are easily avoided by maintaining a simple exercise regimen. Additionally, in the case that an unexpected fall happens, additional strength and mobility can speed up recovery time and minimize any long-term impacts from an injury.
2. Attend a Balance Class
If you’re already active but still feeling uneasy, attending a balance class can help you build the skills you need to feel more stable. There are certain evidence-based balance techniques you can practice at home to strengthen your core, improve your range of motion and correct your gait. A few examples include practicing walking toe-to-heel or doing simple leg lifts. However, if you’re just starting a regimen to improve your balance, be sure to consult with a physician to find the right training option that meets your needs.
3. Clear the Walkways in Your Home
Removing excess clutter is one of the easiest ways to mitigate falls. Hallways lined with knick-knacks or blocked by bulky furniture can make it hard to navigate your own home, especially if your vision is impaired. Start by moving any items in your walkways that could cause you to trip unexpectedly, like stacks of old papers or miscellaneous boxes. For outdoor walkways, clear any plant overgrowth and add ample lighting for better visibility when you’re out in the evening.
4. Reorganize with Accessibility in Mind
Take a look at the smaller, more fragile pieces on your walls and shelves, as these can easily fall or break and lead to an unexpected slip. To stay on the safe side, consider packing these items away or moving them to an area far out of reach. At the same time, figure out where your most important documents and possessions are currently stashed. If you find yourself using a step stool every time you need a postage stamp, it may be worth overhauling your organization to make these items more readily available and within reach—this way, you won’t have to make an unnecessary and risky climb to get to your necessities.
5. Stabilize your home furnishings
While it’s never the ideal scenario, missing a step or stumbling over a throw rug can happen to anyone. To prevent a small misstep from turning into an injury-inducing fall, it’s helpful to have something sturdy to grab on to so you can brace yourself and hopefully regain your balance right away. Rather than furnishing your home exclusively with delicate antiques and other decorative pieces, opt for more stable pieces that you could potentially rely on for support. Since most falls tend to happen in the bathroom, make sure to evaluate whether any existing support bars are firmly installed. Keep in mind that a towel rack, unlike a grab bar, is not designed to support sudden pressure or weight.
6. Take Care of Your Feet
In some cases, maintaining great balance and avoiding potential falls can be as simple as treating outstanding foot or ankle pain. A healthy sense of balance relies on strength and stability in your feet and ankles. Aches and pains that make it hard to stand comfortably are not normal side effects of aging, which is why it’s important to address any discomfort by visiting a specialist and regularly stretching and exercising the muscles in your feet and ankles. Protect your bones and ligaments with sensible footwear with appropriate padding, insoles or any prescribed measures. In some cases, corrective surgery may be necessary to address a serious or limiting condition. In the end, these measures can make a world of difference in reducing fall risk.
7. Talk to Your Provider
Certain prescriptions and over-the-counter supplements can have side effects like drowsiness, dizziness or sudden drops in blood pressure—all of which put you at risk for a sudden tumble. Taking multiple medications can amplify these sides effects or create drug interactions that interfere with balance and increase the potential for a fall. Talk to your provider about any risks associated with your medication regimen, along with ways you can manage possible side effects. If you’re noticing any new troubles with balance or have a history of falls, be sure to bring this up during your appointment to rule out the possibility that a separate health condition is creating new risks.
At The Lodge at Grand Junction Senior Living, we’re committed to supporting seniors in our community to live well and age well. This means that from the moment you get in touch with our team, we want to ensure you not only feel comfortable but also feel supported. If you have questions about reducing fall risk or are concerned about a loved one who may need additional support, our team is here to help. Contact us online today or call (970) 470-8428 to speak with one of our professional care experts.