Fall is arguably the most treasured season in New England. Apple cider, beautiful foliage, pumpkin carving, and chilly nights. It is also the time that the National Council on Aging uses to educate older people about falls and how to avoid them.
Falls among older adults are very common. In fact, they are the most common cause of injury, hospitalization, and death among those over the age of 65. But they don’t have to be. With a few simple steps you and your loved ones can avoid falling and the disruption and potential danger it causes.
The Activity Antidote
When people get older and become insecure about their ability to stay on their feet, they sometimes choose to stay at home and limit their activity. This is not a good idea, because all of the abilities you need to keep from falling—including strength, balance, and range of motion—are kept in tune by remaining active.
The most beneficial thing to do is to take a senior-level fitness class or join a gym. You’ll benefit from the opportunity to build muscle and flexibility, which rebound nicely with regular use. You’ll also gain the overall health benefit of positive social interactions, which are a leading component of wellbeing.
A Clear Path
It seems silly, but many people fall due to obstacles and poor lighting in their home. Make sure that there is adequate walking space between the furniture and other objects in your home. Remove tripping hazards like rugs or small furniture that can easily shift into unexpected places. Place lights in areas you walk regularly and turn them on to ensure you can see where you are going and if something is in the way.
An Appointment with Success
If you feel as if you might fall, ask for help from family members and your physician. You may benefit from using a walker or a cane, for instance. They are tools that increase, rather than decrease, your independence.
Your doctor or family member might suggest a personal emergency response system, like Philips Lifeline, which is available locally and helps you get help quickly if you need it. Southwestern Vermont Health Care Auxiliary offers Lifeline and funding to help defray installation costs for those may have trouble affording it. To find out more about Lifeline in Bennington and the surrounding areas, call (802) 447-5089. Like a cane, it is a tool that helps you maintain your independence.
Taking steps to prevent falls is one of the easiest and most beneficial things older adults can do to ensure their health and wellbeing this season and all year.
Margaret Thompson is an advanced practice registered nurse who provides care to short-term rehabilitation patients and long-term care residents at the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation, a Bennington-VT skilled nursing facility associated with Southwestern Vermont Health Care. “Health Matters” is a column meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care.