Eight Fall Prevention Tips for Seniors
If younger people trip and fall, usually the only injury is to their pride: a slip on the ice, a missed step, tipping over one’s own feet, often lead to nothing more than a moment of embarrassment.
But for older adults, a fall can be much more serious — even deadly.
One study found that people 70 and older who experience falls are three times as likely to die following their fall compared to people under 70. And a startling statistic from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention revealed that an older American adult dies from a fall every 20 minutes.
But falls aren’t a fact of life for older adults. If you’re an older adult or care for one, you can prevent falls with these eight fall prevention tips and fall prevention exercises.
Talk with a doctor. Medications are among the top causes of falls in older people. They’re also among the easiest risk factors to change. Review all prescribed and over-the-counter medications for those that may cause dizziness, make you tired or affect your thinking. Some prescribed medications affect the brain, blood pressure and blood sugar can all raise your fall risk.
Learn whether a health condition contributes to your fall risk. Some eye and ear disorders may cause you to fall. If you’re diabetic, a change in your blood sugar levels may cause you to become dizzy. If you have a health condition that may cause you to fall, ask your doctor if there are any warning signs you should pay attention to.
Get your eyes checked. Something seemingly so simple as ensuring your glasses or contact lens prescription is up to date can prevent falls. Also, bifocals can be problematic on stairs, so be cautious. And if you’re struggling with low vision, talk with a low-vision specialist who can give you tips on how to best use the vision you do have.
Get rid of the home hazards. Falls don’t usually happen at random and on their own; there’s usually a suspect involved, such as the border of a rug, wet floor or an electrical cord. To prevent falls at home, take a look at the hazards around your house. Remove rugs, or fasten the edges down with carpet tape. Don’t stretch cords across walkways. Add handrails to both sides of your stairways. Quickly clean up all spills. If you wear house slippers, wear ones with non-skid soles.
Shed some light on your living areas. A good fall prevention strategy includes good lighting. Add night lights to hallways, bedrooms and bathrooms. Always turn on the lights when you’re going up and down stairs; change out bulbs with low wattage for brighter bulbs.
Upgrade your bathroom. Follow the lead of high-quality assisted living communities and add devices to help prevent bathroom falls. Install handrails by your toilet and in your shower, and add a sturdy seat in your tub or shower. Consider replacing your toilet with a raised toilet seat to help you get up and down easier. Some of these changes to your home may be costly, but consider them an investment in being able to live in your home more independently.
Move deliberately. Try not to stand up too suddenly from a sitting or lying position; that can cause light-headedness. Instead, take a beat, pause and rise slowly. And try to map out your path as you walk, scanning the floor for any possible hazards. If you have a bit of clutter in your home, reduce it as much as possible. Boxes or stacks of books in the living room can cause you to trip, as can kitchen chairs and bedroom side tables.
Don’t stop moving your body. Ever heard the saying, “Use it or lose it”? That definitely applies here. As we age, we lose flexibility, stamina, bone density and muscle mass. Regular exercise helps us maintain all that. If you’ve always maintained a regular exercise routine, keep it up! If your doctor has evaluated your gait, balance and muscle strength and suggests working with a physical therapist or other fitness professional, get moving!
Six Fall Prevention Exercises
The keys to preventing falls are maintaining good balance and core muscle strength. And you don’t need to be a bodybuilder to have a strong core; you just need to do these six simple fall prevention exercises regularly.
Standing with your feet hip-width apart and your back straight, step forward with one foot. If you’re struggling to maintain your balance, put a chair to one side and hold it as you step forward. Bend your knee until your back knee is almost touching the ground, then return to standing. Switch legs and repeat. As you gain strength, you can do this minus the chair.
Try five reps per leg, then 10 reps per leg. Once you have your balance down and feel this exercise is too easy, gradually add weights so that you’re holding small barbells in each hand as you lunge.
Standing with your back straight and your feet together, put your arms in front of you, then slowly bend your back and reach your fingers as far down toward your toes as your current level of flexibility allows. Try to keep your knees unbent as you’re doing this.
Try five reps, then gradually increase to 10 reps.
Standing with your back and torso straight, and your feet hip-width apart, lift one knee up so that it’s at a 90-degree angle. Hold and count to 15 seconds, then return that foot to the floor and repeat on your other leg. If you need to hold a wall or sturdy chair for balance, that’s fine. As you progress, you should be able to perform all reps without holding onto anything.
Do five reps per leg, and gradually increase to 15 reps per leg.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted on the floor hip-width apart. Cross your arms across your chest and try to relax your neck and shoulders. Tucking in your chin, try to sit up toward your knees, but keep your lower back, pelvis and feet on the floor. You’re trying to strengthen your lower abdominal muscles with this one, so it’s not a true sit-up.
Start with 8-10 reps, and increase gradually to 20-25 reps.
Floor Toe Taps
If you’ve just finished your crunches, stay on your back and raise your legs up so that from the side you look like an L, then bend both your knees at a 90-degree angle (at this point you’ll look something like a Z.) Place your hands at your sides with your palms down. Slowly lower one foot and gently tap the floor, keeping your other leg still and your back flat. Alternate legs.
Try 8-10 reps of this exercise, gradually increasing to 15-20 reps.
Once again, stay on your back. Bend both your knees and put your feet on the floor hip-width apart. Put your hands to your side with your palms down. Raise your hips until your knees are in line with your shoulders. Hold this pose for 30 seconds.
Try doing 15-20 reps, gradually increasing to 25-30 reps.
The best exercise: Walk into a Retirement Center Management community near you
If you’ve been thinking of moving into an assisted living community that offers numerous wellness opportunities as part of its vibrant lifestyle, look closer at assisted living at an RCM community
We invite you to visit an RCM community in your neighborhood to learn about our living options, from independent living to assisted living and memory care, and discover what sets our communities apart.
Schedule your personal visit by contacting us, or call us at 281-816-6953.