Falls are not a normal part of aging, but they are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. In fact, falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA).
The good news is that many falls are preventable, and organizations like NCOA and Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) are promoting measures that can help, leading up to Falls Prevention Awareness Day on Sept. 22.
Here are some of the best ways to prevent a fall:
- Find a balance or exercise program. It’s never too late to build stability, strength, and flexibility! SCES offers a free, one-on-one fall prevention program for those who have difficulty leaving their homes. The Cambridge and Somerville senior centers also offer ongoing exercise classes, such as chair yoga, dancing, or bowling.
- Talk to your doctor. Don’t be afraid to mention that you’ve had a fall or are afraid of falling. Your doctor will be able to assess your risk of future falls and recommend strategies to help.
- Review medications. Your doctor or your pharmacist can also determine whether any of your prescriptions or over-the-counter medications increase your chance of a fall. They may recommend alternatives to reduce this risk. It’s important to review your medications regularly, and to verify that you are taking them only as prescribed.
- Check vision and hearing. Don’t skip those annual appointments! Your ability to hear and see can greatly impact your balance and your ability to avoid obstacles.
- Keep your home safe. Evaluate your home for fall hazards. Remove obstacles, such as rugs or clutter that might cause you to trip. Make sure areas like entryways are well-lit. Install grab bars where needed, such as in the bathroom or near the front door. You might also consider consulting an occupational therapist to assess your home and make recommendations.
Studies have shown that practical lifestyle adjustments, evidence-based falls prevention programs, and clinical-community partnerships can substantially reduce fall risk among older adults. SCES offers the following fall prevention programs in Somerville and Cambridge:
A Matter of Balance is designed to reduce the fear of falling and increase activity levels. Sessions include discussion and exercises to improve balance, flexibility, and strength. Each class meets for 2 hours once a week for eight weeks.
The Stay Strong Program is a one-on-one, in-home approach to fall prevention for people who have difficulty participating in programs outside of their homes. The program is aimed at improving strength and balance to reduce the risk of falls and increase the participant’s ability to safely leave the home.
To find an exercise or balance program that works best for you, contact Eliza Wiesner at 617-628-2601, x3108 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) is a non-profit agency that supports the independence and well-being of older people in Somerville and Cambridge. For more information, visit eldercare.org, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or contact the SCES Aging Information Center at 617-628-2601 for free advice and guidance.