Dealing with Being Fall Prone
Picture this: You have just returned from a visit with your physician and she has informed you that you are fall prone and need to be more careful to avoid falls. So now you are wondering, “What am I supposed to do—or not do—to ‘be more careful?’”
Falls and Older Adults
First of all, you are in good company. It is a fact that one in three adults over the age of 65 falls at least once a year, so being fall prone is not uncommon. But it’s nothing to shrug off: falls are the leading cause of injury and death for older Americans. In 2014 alone, they fell 29 million times resulting in seven million injuries and more than 27,000 deaths.
Being Careful to Avoid Falls – Some Strategies
Below are some strategies for dealing with being fall prone. It is by no means exhaustive list, but they should be a part of your overall plan.
Make Moving Around Your Home Safer
Remove as much clutter as possible from the floors of your home—it is a definite trip hazard. Eliminate throw rugs and any other small rugs if possible. Secure them with tape if they must stay.
Staircases in particular are hazardous places where clutter can accumulate; remove it all—no exceptions. Make sure there are handrails and plenty of lighting in all stairways, even those with a few stairs.
Make sure there is good lighting in all traffic areas. The brighter the lighting is in your home, the better. Nearly fifty percent of adults over 75 have some loss of vision due to cataracts.
Keep Track of All Your Medications
Sleeping pills, sedatives and anti-anxiety medications can cause sleepiness and dizziness and are strong risk factors for falls. Some combinations of medications can also cause dizziness. Make sure your physician and pharmacist are aware all the prescription and non-prescription medications you are taking. Keep your own up-to-date list. When your physician’s nurse asks at your next visit, “Have your medications changed since your last visit?” you will be able to answer, “I’m not sure. Here is my current list. Please check it against your records.”
Medication list forms are available on the Internet. The Institute for Safe Medical Practices offers a printable form at http://tinyurl.com/nvmedlist. If you’re not able to make a list, put all your prescription and non-prescription medications into a paper bag and take it with you to your appointments.
Family caregivers, take note: falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually. A current medication list can save time when medication information is requested by emergency room staff.
One of the worst things to do if you have had a fall or two is to retreat to your easy chair because you are afraid of falling again. In fact, fear of falling is a strong risk factor for more falls. Exercise can help improve your flexibility and coordination and will help prevent falls.
If you are homebound, ask your physician or physical therapist for some exercises you can do in your own home. Set up a “walking course” inside your home and count your steps. A friend or caregiver can keep a tally and provide encouragement.
If you have access to transportation, Tai Chi classes for those 50 and over are offered at the Peoria Park District’s Noble Center. Tai Chi improves balance and increases strength and flexibility. Call the Park District at (309) 682-1200 for more information.
The Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging provides an 8-week program called “A Matter of Balance” that addresses the issue of falls among seniors. It teaches strategies to reduce fear of falling by increasing activity levels and, through exercise, increasing strength and balance. Classes are offered to area seniors throughout the Agency’s six-county service area. Call the Area Agency at (309) 674-2071 for more information.
Stay In Touch With Your Medical Team
Be open and honest with your medical professionals about changes in your condition and symptoms such as dizziness and sleepiness. Do not skip scheduled appointments because you “feel okay today.”
Don’t forget that your team includes your ophthalmologist or optometrist. Staying ahead of vision problems can help prevent falls and support your overall quality of life.
AC Skylines Home Care provides in-home care and nursing services for older adults and is experienced working with those who are fall prone and their families. For more information and a no-charge consultation, call AC Skylines Home Care Services at (309) 689-5343 or send email to BCowley@acskylines.org. Visit www.acskylineshomecare.org or Facebook.com/ACskylinesHomeCare.