One in three adults 65 and older fall each year in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the older population, falls are the number-one cause of injuries, both fatal and nonfatal.
Physical therapist Cindy Johnson of TherapyWorks says practicing fall prevention can be an essential element to maintaining one’s independence and health.
“Falls are one of the leading causes of being admitted to nursing homes,” Johnson said. “So preventing the fall in the first place is so important.”
Many factors figure into taking a tumble. To keep your footing, Johnson has these tips:
Exercise is imperative not only to health, but also to keeping you stable. Johnson says that when people strengthen and stretch their muscles, their ability to adapt to potentially dangerous situations improves.
“When you have that momentary lapse in balance, you can regain it more quickly if you have the flexibility and strength to pull yourself back to a place of stability,” Johnson said.
Have regular medical exams
It can be difficult to be completely aware of what is going on in our bodies without the keen eye of a doctor. From medication side effects to blood pressure levels, Johnson says many things we are unable to identify on our own could be contributing to dizziness, which could lead to a devastating fall.
“It’s important to see your doctor for regular physicals to stay on the health side of the curve, instead of waiting until something bad happens,” Johnson said.
Have your vision checked
Staying away from the optometrist doesn’t just hinder your ability to see the TV screen; it also can put you at risk for a fall. To stay safe, Johnson said it’s important to keep eyesight in the best shape possible.
“As you age, your eyes change,” Johnson says, “and when you can’t see what is on the floor or in front of you, a fall is likely to happen.”
Also, make sure to use the correct eyewear – bifocals and reading glasses can make it difficult to see while moving around.
Eliminate hazards from the home
How you keep house can have a lot to do with whether you fall. Things like cords in the middle of the room are accidents waiting to happen, and people of all ages are prone to lose their balance if they catch their foot on a lose throw rug. To prevent a fall, keep your floors clear of clutter.
But not only should you strive to keep all pathways clear, Johnson says it is smart to store often-used objects within reach.
“If you keep items you use frequently at waist level,” Johnson said, “you’re not in a place where you can loose your balance every day.”
Use extra support when needed
Whether it’s the handrail when you’re heading downstairs or a cane when you’re going on a walk, Johnson says it is important to use ambulatory tools if you are concerned about maintaining your balance.
“You’re less likely to fall with something like a cane,” Johnson said. “You know when you have two feet you have a space between, but when you have a cane you have a triangle and a wider base of support.”
To identify if your older friends and loved ones may need extra balance support, Johnson says there are a few signs to look for that are precursors to balance issues.
“When you notice fingerprints on the walls or mom and dad reaching for the furniture a lot,” Johnson said, “those are things saying, ‘I don’t have a walker or cane, but I’m needing some external support.'”