Take these Steps to Prevent Falls
Ask your doctor about medical causes.
Your doctor can evaluate your risk of falling and review your medications during a routine visit. Some things are outside our control like changes in your eyesight, hearing, or balance, any of which can increase your risk of falling. Other health conditions and certain medications can also increase the probability that you will lose your balance.
There are often preventative medical steps you can take to help prevent falls. Your doctor or other medical professionals can check your risk with:
- Vision tests: Good eyesight is important to be able to see fall hazards clearly. It’s important to get your vision checked at least once a year and get a new eyeglasses prescription, if needed.
- Hearing tests: Ear infections or loss of hearing can affect your balance, which can lead to falls.
- Bone density scans: As you age, your body loses bone and muscle mass, which can increase your risk of falling.
- Routine checkups: Based on your health and unique situation, your doctor can help you assess what you need to help prevent falls. Make sure to discuss fall prevention during routine checkups.
Find ways to improve your health.
Falls can be prevented by living an active and healthy lifestyle. Some easy and simple things you can do at home to help prevent falling include:
- Stay active to keep bones and muscles strong. Physical activity plays a key role in maintaining good balance. Daily walks, stretching, and just moving around can all make a big difference.
- Exercising regularly can be very useful in fall prevention. Of course, you should only start an exercise routine if you’re able to. Talk with your doctor about an exercise plan that’s right for you.
- Get a good night’s sleep so you can be alert and focused throughout the day. If you experience sleep problems, be sure to mention that to your doctor.
- Eat a balanced diet to get enough bone- and muscle-strengthening nutrients. Ask your doctor about vitamin D and calcium supplements.
Fall-proof your home.
Many falls are due to preventable accidents in the home. Having a pet, electrical cords, clutter on the floor, or slippery wooden flooring all increase your risk of falling.
Here are some things you can do to fall-proof your home:
- Create clear pathways throughout your home. This means removing clutter from walkways such as clothing, electrical cords, or toys.
- Replace area rugs with non-skid carpets or install a non-skid backing to rugs so they don’t slide.
- Make sure your home is well lit including your hallways, stairs, and walkways. Keep a flashlight by your bed. Be sure to replace burnt-out bulbs when needed.
- Install handrails for steps and stairs throughout your home, and especially in the bathroom next to the tub or shower.
Stay smart when you’re out and about.
Falls can happen anywhere and when you least expect them. When you’re out and about away from home, it’s important to follow these simple tips:
- Be alert. Make sure you have your eyes and ears open and that you stay focused while you’re walking.
- Have a clear view of your walking path. Look out for uneven surfaces, curbs, or obstructions in your pathway, and take care when walking outside if the weather’s bad and the streets and sidewalks are icy, snowy, or wet. Of course, always be aware of other people.
- Use handrails whenever available.
- Walk at a safe pace to reduce your risk of falling while providing more time to become aware of your surroundings.
- Ask for help if needed. If you find yourself with your hands full, ask someone such as a store clerk to help carry items to your car.
Find the right footwear.
Wearing shoes that are uncomfortable, are too big or too small, have high heels, or have little-to-no heel support can affect our balance and how we walk, which can significantly contribute to our risk of falling. Wearing comfortable and well-fitting shoes i key to preventing falls. The features of comfortable and safe footwear are:
- A proper fit
- A flat, low heel, and enclosed back.
- Rubberized or non-skid soles.
- A comfortable and secure hold around your foot and ankle with self-fasteners, laces, zippers, or buckles.
Know the right way to fall.
Believe it or not, there is a right way to fall. If you find yourself in a fall, don’t panic. Just remember to take it slow and easy as you gently recover by following these movements:
- Gently and slowly bend your knees in the direction of your fall.
- Gently and slowly turn towards your wrist, turning your shoulders away from the fall to change the point of impact. This can relieve your hip from taking the impact, allowing the brunt of the fall to be spread out along the length of your leg, thigh, and pelvis.
- Gently and slowly roll to soften your landing to help you recover from your fall.
If you have fallen, it’s important to stay calm and assess your situation. Ask yourself:
- Are you in pain?
- Are you seriously hurt? Do you think you might have a broken bone?
- Do you have a helper nearby, a medical alert device, or phone that can connect you with help?
If you aren’t seriously hurt, you can:
- Gently turn your head in the direction you want to get up, and slowly roll toward that side.
- Slowly get on your hands and knees and gently crawl to where there’s something safe or solid to hold on to such as a grab bar.
- Gently and slowly lift yourself up. Breathe slowly and easily.
If you can’t get up, call out for help so someone can hear you. If you’re alone, try to grab your phone. If you have access to and/or are wearing a medical alert device, activate it so you can receive immediate help.
Let your doctor know right away if you have a fall. Your doctor can help assess what happened in your situation, and can treat you for any injury that might have occurred.
Your Fall Prevention Checklist
Use these tips to help you stay on your feet:
- Get dressed from a seated position such as your bedside or a chair.
- Wear shoes with non-skid soles.
- Wear non-slip socks and shoes with rubberized soles when at home.
- Add rubber tips to canes or walkers to ensure added grip and stability.
- Stand up slowly from a seated position to avoid potential dizziness.
- Keep a flashlight next to your bed and install nightlights throughout your home, especially for middle-of-the-night bathroom visits.
- Use step stools or ladders rather than standing on chairs.
- Reach out and ask for help when needed.
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