Resources - October 29, 2019
According to the National Council on Aging, one in four Americans age 65 and older fall every year, and, sadly, every 19 minutes, an older American dies from a fall. For older adults, falls are the leading cause of fatal and serious injuries, including broken bones and head trauma. The good news is that many falls can be prevented.
Age-related causes of tripping and falling range from decreased balance and coordination to deteriorating vision. Sometimes medication can cause side effects such as light-headedness or dehydration, both risk factors for a fall. Chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and stroke can contribute to inactivity or pain, which can leave us more susceptible to unsteadiness on our feet.
While we can’t avoid all age-related ailments, we can take steps to manage them and decrease the likelihood of a fall. Proactive fall prevention includes regular vision tests to ensure we have the right vision correction and speaking with our physician about the side effects we can expect from medications. We can also remain active and participate in fitness programs that might help.
At our Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads and Alexandria communities, we encourage residents to take advantage of on-site wellness programs tailored to prevent falls. Programs focusing on muscle strength, coordination and flexibility are essential to improving balance and stability. The Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL) fitness class offers one hour of physical activity, twice a week. The class combines movement and static exercises to help improve strength and balance. For those who prefer something else, Tai Chi or yoga classes help to improve balance. Research suggests improved strength and balance can significantly reduce the risk of a fall.
In addition to maintaining physical fitness, we should take steps to ensure a safe home environment. Fall prevention strategies for your home include replacing slippery rugs with ones that have a non-slip backing, tacking down loose carpet and removing floor clutter to lessen the chances of a misstep. In the kitchen, consider moving objects from hard-to-reach cabinets to ones that are easily reached. If you’re experiencing mobility issues, consider adding alternative routes into your house that avoid steep steps, such as installing a ramp or handrail. Ensuring rooms, hallways and stairs are well-lit is as important as wearing shoes with good support both outside and inside the home. And don’t neglect potential issues in the bathroom. Add a non-slip mat to the tub or shower as well as handrails for added security.
For seniors who choose to age in place, Goodwin Living at Home can perform a yearly home safety assessment to evaluate potential fall risk factors and recommend solutions. Members can also work with their member services facilitator to address health issues to increase balance and strength.
If you’re ready to learn more about fall prevention, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries (STEADI) program offers a series of helpful brochures about how to prevent falls. If you’d like to know more about Goodwin Living and how we actively work to help our community members stay healthy and fit, please make an appointment to visit our communities.