Tip Your Hat to Falls Prevention!
by Kathleen Cameron
National Council on Aging
National Council on Aging (NCOA), a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of older adults, believes healthy aging is the key to leading a life full of independence, freedom, and fun. That’s why we’re committed to stopping as many falls as possible, and helping to keep the 1 in 4 older adults who fall each year safely on their feet!
Unlike karaoke night with your sisters, falls aren’t fun—at all. In fact, they’re actually a pretty big pain in the butt! They can lead to head injuries, broken bones, hip fractures—yes, that means no merengue—a big fat medical bill that depletes your mani pedi slushfund, and even death.
But like most things in life, falls, too, are preventable. To keep the party of life going without any unwanted interruptions, follow these steps to avoid becoming the 1 in 4.
1. Give your eyes and ears some TLC!
The older, the better only applies to your bottle of Cabernet Franc, not your eyeglass prescription! Your vision is key to helping you navigate falls hazards, like stairs and dim environments, meaning it’s important to get that annual eye exam to ensure your eyes stay healthy! If you’re a sunglasses kinda gal, remember tinted lenses can be a hazard, too. Swap your lenses before leaving the sun for a dimmer setting, and give your eyes time to adjust. Better yet, drop the sunglasses altogether for a stylish wide-rimmed red hat!
And those ears of yours are for more than just taking in beautiful notes at concerts! Your hearing is crucial for good balance, as well as ensuring you maintain high awareness of your environment—so make sure your ears are attending their annual exam, too!
2. Talk their ears off!
Your family. Your friends. Your doctor. Give them the scoop on everything! Your health; medications; your inability to do things that used to be easy; if you feel unsteady when walking or standing, have fallen in the past year, or worry about falling. They’re your support system, so talk to them, because all of these topics can flag falls hazards.
3. Buy some active wear!
No—shopping does not prevent falls, but exercise does! So grab a sister, hit up your favorite athletic store, and head over to a balance class!
Classes like Tai Chi, Stepping On, A Matter of Balance, and Otago, as well as physical therapy, can improve your strength, flexibility, balance, and gate—all things that can help prevent falls.
4. Give your house the once-over
The place you probably feel the most comfortable is likely the biggest falls hazard in your life! Three in 4 falls occur in or near the home—meaning it’s time for you to step out of your comfort zone, and assess everything in your home with a critical eye.
Ask yourself: Is there enough lighting in hallways and stairways? Do my throw rugs slide? Can I easily reach common items in the kitchen? Are there rails or grab bars in all doorways, stairways, and bathrooms? Is there a telephone within arm’s reach from my bed? Is there a clear path from my bed to the bathroom?
These questions and more can help guide you through very simple changes you can implement to make your home safer. Enlisting the expertise of an occupational therapist can be a great help.
5. Get your medications reviewed
High blood pressure, arthritis, and sleeping problems have many of us ladies popping meds! But many medications we’re taking—both prescribed and over-the-counter—often cause dizziness, confusion and drowsiness. These side-effects alone set off falls alarms, but when combined with your daily martini or cosmo, those falls alarms turn to wailing sirens! To avoid falls, get your medications reviewed by your doctor or pharmacist at least once a year.
Falls can happen any where and at any age. The NCOA is here to help! Find out what you can do to prevent falls in your life or in the life of an older lady you love at NCOA.org/Falls.
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