Falls are the leading cause of injuries for older adults. One in four older adults fall each year—leading to 2.8 million emergency room visits annually.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps that can help reduce fall risk for older adults:
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 entryways are well-lit. Install grab bars where needed, such as in the bathroom or near the front door.
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 determine whether your prescriptions or over-the-counter medications increase your chance of a fall. 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 balance and ability to avoid obstacles.
Focus on balance and exercise It’s never too late to build stability, strength, and flexibility. Look for ways to walk more and sit less, even if you are spending the day at home. Even just 20 minutes per day of moderate physical activity can make a difference.
The National Institute on Aging offers the following recommendations:
- Brisk walks can help build endurance. Be sure to warm up and cool down, and stop if you experience dizziness, chest pain or pressure or a feeling like heartburn.
- Build strength by lifting light weights. If possible, exercise your arms and legs at least twice per week, but don’t exercise the same area two days in a row. Start light, or with no weights at all, and use smooth and steady movements.
- Balance exercises can help avoid falls. Try standing on one foot, then the other. A heel-to-toe walk, where you place the front heel just in front of your rear-foot toes with each step, can also help. Have a support, like a study chair, nearby if you feel unsteady.
- Stretches can help build flexibility. Calf and ankle stretches can be very helpful, and you should stretch after strength and endurance exercises.
- For more information about in-home exercises, contact SCES Wellness Coordinator Eliza Wiesner at Eliza.Wiesner@eldercare.org.
The week of Sept. 21 is Falls Prevention Awareness Week. For the second straight year, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) Home Care Team is raising awareness on this issue throughout the month with a
Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) is proud to support these efforts. Throughout September our team is walking to help EOEA reach its goal of 2.5 million steps. Through two weeks, our team has contributed 760,944 steps, and we are looking forward to a big finish for this effort.
If you would like to join in this effort, post your photos, walk results, and comments on Facebook using the hashtag #MASteps2PreventFalls. We’ll be sure to update EOEA on your contributions.
Together we can help raise awareness on this issue and encourage everyone to take simple steps to avoid falls.
Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) is a non-profit agency that supports the independence and well-being of older adults in Somerville and Cambridge. Contact our Aging Information Center at 617-628-2601 or firstname.lastname@example.org for free advice and guidance, or visit us online at eldercare.org.