September is Healthy Aging Month and September 23rd is Falls Prevention Day. This is doubly important to recognize, because preventing falls has a lot to do with healthy aging and keeping up, as much as possible, with flexibility, balance, and strength. Your senior loved one may not be as strong as they used to be, so there are other precautions you can take to help protect them from a fall.
Why Focus on Falls Prevention?
Falls are easily brushed off when you’re young, but the older you get, the more serious a fall can be. In those seniors over the age of 64, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries, according to the National Council on Aging. Even if a fall is not fatal, it may take a long time to recover from the injuries, and the injuries can contribute to other conditions, like osteoarthritis.
Healthy Aging Prevents Falls
Frequent exercise can improve strength, balance, flexibility and bone density, all of which can help protect your senior loved one from a fall (and prevent the worst injuries if they do fall). To start, focus on these types of exercises:
- Muscle strengthening exercises: Strength is an important factor in balance. Weight training (strength training) is a great way to develop or maintain strength but be sure your loved one is using proper form (or get guidance from a physical trainer).
- Bone density exercises: It’s important to put pressure on bones to keep them strong. For some seniors, walking will apply enough stress to the bones. Other options include golf, tennis or dancing.
- Balance exercises: Practicing flexibility and balance can help a senior recover their balance before they fall. Yoga, Tai Chi and other exercises with moderate stretching can help improve balance.
When possible, choose a type of exercise that provides all these benefits. But, be sure to check in with a doctor before starting.
Managing medications with fall prevention in mind is also wise. Certain medications have the effect of making seniors unstable on their feet. If you’re worried about a fall, it may be time to talk to their doctor, who may recommend medication options that are less likely to interfere with balance.
Other Fall Prevention Steps
Changing the environment is another important part of fall prevention. This is especially important for seniors who live alone and don’t have the support of Home Care staff who would know to make these adjustments. Here are some things you can do to help your loved one:
- Move trip hazards: Especially on stairways and walkways. Remember to keep the floor clutter-free.
- Tape rugs: The edges of rugs can be a tripping hazard if they lift while you walk over them. Tape them down to the floor or remove them entirely.
- Install rails: Safety rails are convenient to help keep seniors on their feet. Install them in the places where falls are most likely to occur like the stairs, bathroom, and front door.
- Lighting: It’s easier to avoid tripping hazards if you can see them! Make sure every part of your loved one’s home is well-lit.
Need help with fall-proofing? Call us today. One of our care providers can help you make your loved one’s home safer.