A Fall Can Destroy Your Health
What’s worse than that horrible feeling of inevitable doom as you fall?
How about that cold-fingered, clenched fist of fear in your belly when you hear your mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa has fallen and gotten hurt.
The possibility of a loved one experiencing a dangerous fall at home is one of the most worrisome predicaments we find ourselves in as the years pass and we see our parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends get older and older. Considering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared falls at home the No. 1 cause of injuries for seniors, we need to be proactive to decrease the risk of this happening to our loved ones. Falls can cause health issues ranging anywhere from brain damage and hip fractures to bruised limbs resulting in limited mobility and restricted range of motion. They can be caused by anything from wet floors, unsafe stairs, or seemingly innocent clutter in the home.
Here are 10 measures we can act on to decrease the likelihood of our loved ones falling and getting injured at home. Consider it an insurance checklist for their well-being and your peace of mind.
❑ 1. Lighting
Inadequate lighting can cause dangerous falls for obvious reasons but it is often overlooked as being "good enough." Make sure proper lighting is everywhere in the home to help prevent falls. Keep in mind that as we get older our night vision gets worse. While it's a natural part of aging, it also makes darkness more dangerous for the elderly. Install nightlights in the bedroom and bathrooms to help avoid falls at night. Placing a lamp within easy reach by the bedside will make those middle-of-the-night bathroom trips much safer.
❑ 2. Eliminate Clutter and Hazards
Decrease the chances of a fall by getting rid of any home hazards. Be a ruthless safety inspector. Eliminate any and all clutter on or near stairs, in hallways, and everywhere in their walking path. Poorly placed pieces of furniture and home fixtures, such as standalone lamps, can also lead to a fall -- so make certain the home is as clutter-free as possible.
❑ 3. Nonslip Mats
Place nonslip mats in bathtubs and showers to help prevent a fall in these especially risky places. Even agile people can slip on slippery wet surfaces, so this is a major fall prevention tip.
❑ 4. Handrails, Grab Bars, and Armrests
Install handrails on both sides of the staircase, grab bars for the shower or bathtub, and armrests for the toilet to make sure seniors are getting as much help as they need to safely live their day-to-day life.
❑ 5. Talk to Your Doctor
Talk to their physicians about any health condition your elderly loved one has that might make them more susceptible to a fall. This will enable you to make a plan of action for fall-prevention strategies based on their specific health needs.
❑ 6. Stay Active
Staying as active as possible will increase confidence, strength, agility, balance, and coordination. With the green light from their doctor, activities such as walking, indoor cycling on an exercise bike, resistance training with light dumbbells, yoga, physical therapy, or gentle stretching and exercise classes can contribute to their overall health and prevent falls.
❑ 7. Wear Safe Shoes
Wearing sturdy shoes and sneakers can decrease the risk of dangerous falls by providing more traction when walking. While at home, seniors should particularly avoid wearing heels, flimsy flip-flops, or loose slippers. Walking around in just stocking feet can also contribute to slipping and falling unless the socks or stockings have bottoms with gripping material for traction.
❑ 8. No Loose Carpeting
Secure loose rugs and mats with non-slip backing, double-sided tape or tacks. Also, avoid tripping hazards by removing loose floorboards or worn carpeting. It’s dangerously easy to get a toe or heel caught underneath the edge of a rug, a patch of threads in the carpet, or uneven floorboards, so make sure everything is secure and level.
❑ 9. Make Often-Used Items More Accessible
Everyday items seniors use often, such as medications, toothbrushes, books, etc. should be made easily accessible and at a height suitable for them.
❑ 10. Live on One Level
Living on one level is the easiest way to ensure fall prevention for the elderly. Staircases can be a dangerous hazard when walking is no longer quite as easy as it used to be. If living on one level isn’t possible, figure out how to limit trips up and down the stairs.
In terms of exercise, going up and down steps in a controlled manner can be very beneficial, hence the popularity of step aerobics. Just like picking up a 1 lb. object can send you groaning to a chiropractor, while you regularly workout with 10 lb. dumbbells without incident. The danger lies in the casual, unmindful manner we all tend to move through our daily lives.
So, here's a final tip you may want to pass along...
Our bodies are safer when our mind is consciously focused on what we are doing. Every step is important because a single misstep can destroy your health.
Don't just "be careful out there," be careful at home as well.