Each year, thousands of Americans over the age of 65 fall with serious injury.
For numerous reasons, as one gets older, there is higher risk for falling and suffering a serious injury. Falls lead to hospitalizations, loss of functional independence, nursing home admissions and death. You are at high risk for falling if you have had two falls in the past year, if you have had one fall and a walking or balance problem, or if you have ever presented to the emergency department or the hospital because of a fall.
Here are some fall prevention guidelines:
Exercise: Exercising daily for at least 30 minutes, composed of aerobics, strengthening, and balance exercises, is crucial for maintenance of muscle, bone, heart and lung health.
Bone Health: Osteoporosis is a risk for falls and injury from falls. A calcium and vitamin D supplement, once to twice daily depending on your diet, is effective in maintaining your bone health and preventing falls.
Safe Shoes: Low heel height, more ground surface contact, rubber soles, and flexible shoes can protect you from falls.
Good Vision: A yearly eye exam is recommended in maintaining good vision and catching eye diseases early, especially if you have high blood pressure or diabetes.
Adequate Lighting: Two of the changes that happen with vision as we age is that our perception of depth and ability to see in dark places declines. That is why good lighting, especially at home and at places you pass when going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, is very important.
Safe Environment: Examine your environment for places you may trip, furniture you may bump into, and surfaces you may slip.
Tell your Doctor: Consult your doctor if you have fallen. The most important risk factor for sustaining another fall is a history of a previous fall.
Short Medication List: Have your doctor review your medications. The less the medications, the safer. The more medications, the higher the risk for dizziness, falls, and other adverse effects
Blood Pressure: While it is important to maintain your blood pressure at a certain goal number, it is as important to ensure that your blood pressure does not fall when you go from a lying to a standing position.
Bathroom Time: If you are starting to experience incontinence or involuntary loss of urine, it is important to tell your doctor about it. Going to the bathroom before going to bed and scheduled during the day will decrease the amount of times you need to get up at night to go to the bathroom.
If you or a loved one is a fall risk, please seek the advice of a medical professional. The Bristol Health geriatrics team is here to help. You can call our office at 860.845.5901 to schedule an appointment.
Margarita Reyes, MD, is a member of the medical staff of the Bristol Health Medical Group and its Geriatric Medicine Program, which is located at 85 Beleden Gardens Drive in Bristol. She also serves as Bristol Health’s Hospice medical director.