Falls can happen to anyone. Follow these tips to keep you and your loved ones their feet!
One of the worst things you can do is to avoid physical activity because you are fearful of a fall. It is important that you stay active! Continue engaging in activities that you enjoy or ask your doctor for some recommendations. Your doctor may recommend some gentle activities, monitored exercise programs, or even a physical therapist, depending on your mobility and health. Participating in these types of activities reduce your chance of falls by improving your balance and coordination. They also help to increase your muscle strength and flexibility.
With your doctor’s permission, try some of these exercises at home.
Alternating Lunges. Start by standing straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and step forward with one foot, bending your forward knee until your back knee is almost touching the ground. Be sure to keep your front knee from extending past the front of the toes. Push up on your forward knee to bring yourself back to a standing position and repeat on the opposite side. Try repeating five times per side, increasing if it feels too easy. Perform this exercise next to a wall or heavy piece of furniture to hold onto if you need help with balancing. If you want an extra challenge, hold light weights in both hands.
Single-Leg Stands. Once again start by standing straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and lift one of your feet a few inches off the ground, bending at the knee. Make sure to keep your torso straight and do not lean on to your other leg. Switch to your other leg after holding for ten to thirty seconds. Do five reps per side. Perform this exercise next to a wall or heavy piece of furniture to hold onto if you need help with balancing.
Chair Leg Raises. Seated in a strong chair, hold onto the bottom with both hands. Extend one of your legs straight out and bring your knee in towards your chest. Try to do this without moving your upper body. Extend your leg back out before lowering your foot to the ground and repeating with your opposite leg. Begin with five reps per leg and work your way up to ten. Not challenging enough? Try extending both legs.
Feet slipping around? Sensible footwear is the solution! Flip flops, heels, loose slippers, and any shoe with slick soles could increase your risk of a slip, stumble, or fall. Switch to wearing sturdy, properly fitted shoes with nonskid soles will make walking around a lot safer. Sensible shoes can also help reduce joint pain. Wearing regular socks around your home is another risk factor for falls. Try switching to socks that have non-slip grips on the soles if you prefer socks or if shoes are too uncomfortable.
Talk to your doctor
At your next appointment, talk to your doctor about any and all concerns you have about fall prevention. Be sure to mention any time you have fallen or almost fallen and ask if the medications you take could increase your risk of falling. Make a list of every medication you take including prescription and over-the-counter medications. Bring this list to your appointment so that your doctor can review your medications and check for possible side effects or interactions. Also, be prepared to discuss your health conditions. Certain ear and eye disorders increase your risk of falls, but any condition that may cause dizziness, numbness in your feet and legs, or joint pain can also be a risk factor.
Your doctor may suggest using a cane or walker to help with keeping you balanced. If your doctor suggests using one of these assistive devices, please listen. Many of those who fall are those who have an assistive walking device but had forgotten to use it or simply didn’t want to use it at the time.
Home Hazards and Improvements
Many people who fall, fall due to reasons that are easily preventable in their home. Some of the easiest ways to help prevent falls in your home only take a few moments to remedy. Removing some of the clutter in your home, especially along the high traffic areas of your home can go a long way in preventing accidental stumbles. An easily overlooked factor may be the rugs in your home. You can remove the rugs, or try double-sided tape and nonslip pads. They are easy to install and will help to prevent slipping or tripping.
Lighting is another important factor in preventing falls! Unless you have night vision, everyone tends to stumble a little in the dark. Nightlights placed throughout your home can go far with preventing falls. Another great place to add light is to your bedside table. A lamp you can turn on from your bed will help you navigate in your room before bed or for any late-night trips to the bathroom.
Slippery bathtubs and showers can be the cause of many falls, and not just for seniors. Adding non-slip stickers or non-slip bathmats to the bottom of any tub or shower will give yourself some added traction. Adding handrails can also be a useful and lifesaving addition to any bathroom, whether it be in the shower or to help you stand from the toilet. It is safer to install them and not need them than to need them and not have them.
Another area to look for home hazards, whether they are inside or outside your home, are the stairs in your home. Ensuring that the handrails are well attached and that the steps are in good shape. If you’re looking at moving, living in a home without stairs is a great choice for fall prevention.
While fall prevention may not seem like a pressing topic, as we age, changes in our bodies make it important to address. While fear of falling should never rule your life, falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults. It is a good idea to have a prevention plan and be aware of simple steps you can take to prevent possible falls in the future.
Written by D. Maves for Access Health Care Physicians, LLC
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