We managed to make it through another challenging Minnesota winter packed with cold weather and icy surfaces. Perhaps you or someone you know is still recovering from an unexpected slip on the ice. For many older adults the possibility of a fall, both inside and outside of the home is a year round concern.
Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths. They are also a common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma, with more than one third of adults 65 and older falling each year in the United States. Eden Prairie Professionals in Aging advocates for public awareness and action to reduce falls in older adults.
The first key to awareness is learning how and why falls occur. Physiological and cognitive changes that are common with aging increase the likelihood of falls. As we age there are naturally occurring changes in vision, hearing, mental processing, strength, endurance and flexibility. In addition, many persons also manage medical conditions that are common in adults such as arthritis, cardiac disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, and dementia. The combination of natural aging plus weakness and disabilities of other diseases put the affected adult at a higher risk than the general population. The greater the number of risk factors both physiologically and environmentally, the greater the probability for falls.
A good way to get started with fall prevention is to perform an assessment of an individual’s risk factors. From this assessment, steps may be taken to reduce the risks. There are simple screening assessment tools available. However, in complex situations, a trained professional such as a home care nurse, occupational or physical therapist, physician or social worker may be able to provide a more comprehensive plan.
There are many common fall prevention interventions that you can put into action today to begin lowering your risks.
Obtain an annual physical exam including an assessment of all medications and a thorough vision and hearing evaluation. Sight, hearing, coordination and loss of muscle strength can affect balance and medication side effects can contribute to dizziness.
Establish an exercise plan to maintain or increase your strength, endurance and flexibility. A physical therapist or athletic trainer may be helpful in setting up an appropriate exercise plan. Simply going for a walk is a great way to get moving, but be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise routine.
Be safe at home by removing clutter from your pathways, such as telephone and electric cords and newspapers and boxes. Immediately wipe up any spills and secure loose rugs with double-faced tape or slip-resistant backing, or simply get rid of those throw rugs all together. Watch out for pets under foot as well. When indoors, avoid walking in just your stocking-feet on slippery floors. Wear shoes or soled slippers that enclose your whole foot or socks with non-skid soles on them.
Always keep your surroundings well lit and place nightlights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
Add assistive devices where necessary like handrails on both sides of the stairs and grab bars placed inside and outside of the shower, as well as next to the toilet. Put a non-slip mat in the bathtub, and consider using a shower chair. In addition, some adults may benefit from using a properly fitted assistive device such as a cane, walker, scooter or wheelchair.
Taking these small simple steps today can help prevent big falls from happening tomorrow. For guidance in intitating your personal fall prevention plan, please visit the Eden Prairie Professionals in Aging (EPPIA) website at www.edenprairieaging.org.
Eden Prairie Professionals in Aging is a non-profit organization based in Eden Prairie, a town of 50,000 in the southwestern Twin Cities. Our diverse member organizations are all committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. Our purpose is to provide networking opportunities for individuals who provide services to elderly persons in Eden Prairie by meeting bimonthly for information exchange and problem solving in our field.
Submitted by EPPIA Members:
and Heather Reynolds, CSA, At Home Solutions, LLC, www.athomesolutionsllc.com
Joanne Bartel PT, Prairie Adult Care, www.prairieadultcare.com
Lisa Schmidtke, Owner, Able Deluxe, www.AbleDeluxe.com