Contrary to what many believe, falling is not a normal occurrence in the aging process. There are many things that contribute to high-risk falls as well as many behaviors to prevent a fall. Let’s take a look at both.
First, the origins:
- As we age, our bones can weaken and for some with osteoporosis, this is a more serious condition. Weak bones and muscles generate instability and lead to a fall. This can be extremely hazardous to one with osteoporosis and sometimes, even fatal.
- Some medications may have side effects causing dizziness. Medications for blood pressure, blood sugar, and anti-depressants are just a few that could lead to a fall if preventions are not in place. Check with your physician before beginning or stopping any medication.
- A prior fall may set up a scenario for a repeat accident. Falls later in life can weaken bones and/or muscles so extra care must be taken to avoid the risk of an additional mishap.
- An ear infection, sometimes associated with the flu, as well as tinnitus, vertigo, and hearing loss may all affect balance.
- Vision related occurrences such as blurry vision, concussion, and spatial disorientation may contribute to balance challenges.
- Arthritis, major joint pain, and muscle weakness contribute to instability.
- Diabetics often have peripheral neuropathy with numbness in the feet which can cause an unpredictable gait.
Fortunately, many of these causes are manageable in consultation with your physician. There are also proactive things to be done in the home to avoid an ill-fated tumble.
- Secure any loose rugs; clear items from frequented pathways.
- Clean up floor spills immediately.
- Keep rooms well lit and place night lights strategically for middle of the night bathroom visits.
- Place flashlights in easy to locate spaces.
- Lamps should be within easy reach of bedside and chairs.
- Install handrails in the shower and tub; if you have stairs, ensure handrails are secure.
- Wear sensible, well-fitting shoes even when indoors. Bare feet don’t provide stability and may cause future foot issues.
- Most important, KEEP MOVING! Physical exercise is so important to your muscle/bone health as well as your heart. Gentle movement such as walking, swimming, and cycling are great for staying active.
As with any new routine or medication, always discuss with your physician. Your medical professionals are advocates for you to live a long, healthy life!
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