Every year, one in three adults 65 and older falls, and 2 million are treated for fall-related injuries, including hip fractures and brain trauma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fortunately, falls are not an inevitable part of aging, and many can be prevented. Stay safe and injury-free by devising a fall-prevention plan.
First things first: Make an appointment with your doctor
Begin your plan by bringing your doctor into the conversation. He or she will most likely ask about prescription and over-the-counter medications you’re taking, so be sure to take a current list with you. Your doctor may consider discontinuing any medications that increase your risk for falling, including sedatives and certain antidepressants. CDPHP® Medicare Choices members have the option to meet one-on-one with a pharmacist to review their medications through our Medication Therapy Management program.
If you’ve fallen before or have almost fallen, be prepared to discuss these details with your doctor, including when, where and how. This will help your doctor identify fall prevention strategies.
Finally, be sure to mention any health conditions that may hinder your ability to walk, such as certain eye and ear disorders, dizziness, joint pain, numbness or shortness of breath. Your doctor will most likely evaluate your muscle strength, balance and gait to recommend exercises or equipment, such as a cane or walker, that will help you stay steady on your feet.
With physical activity comes greater strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. If you’re not currently active, talk to your doctor before beginning a fitness program and stick to gentle, low-impact exercises like walking, water aerobics, and tai chi. CDPHP Medicare Choices members can take advantage of our Senior Fit® program, which offers no-cost access to the Capital District YMCA, Glens Falls YMCA, the Beltrone Living Center, the Sunnyview Lifestyle Wellness Center, the Rudy A. Ciccotti Family Recreation Center and the SilverSneakers® program. Members can also take a free wellness class, in addition to other senior wellness options.
Make sure your home is safe
Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that almost half of all falls happen at home. By conducting a home safety check, you can identify potential hazards that should be removed or fixed immediately.
- Walkways should be clear of items you can easily trip over, including boxes, newspapers, electrical and phone cords and shoes.
- Make sure high-traffic areas aren’t obstructed by furniture like coffee tables and magazine racks.
- Remove or secure loose rugs.
- Repair loose wooden floorboards or cracked or uneven tiles.
- Store necessities like clothes, food, dishes, and toiletries within easy reach.
- Clean up spills immediately.
- Use non-slip mats in your bathtub and shower. Also, install grab bars in and next to your tub and shower and next to the toilet.
- Consider purchasing a sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub, as well as a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while seated.
- Install handrails and lights on all staircases.
- Place non-slip treads on bare wood steps.
- Wear properly fitted, sturdy shoes with non-slip soles instead of slippers or socks.
- When outside in the winter, avoid icy driveways and walkways. Wear rubber-soled boots and even ask a family member, friend, or neighbor for assistance with walking.
Improve the lighting in your home
To avoid tripping on objects that might be hard to see, make sure your home is brightly lit. Use these tips:
- Place nightlights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
- Place a lamp within reach of your bed.
- Make sure paths to light switches are clear of clutter and furniture. Consider installing illuminated switches so you can see them easily.
- Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.
- Store flashlights in convenient spots that are easy to find in the event of a power outage.
Other resources available through CDPHP
Visit cdphp.com for more information on senior health. CDPHP Medicare Choices members can take advantage of our Health AllySM program, which puts you in touch with a health coach who will provide personalized support to help you make the most of your benefits and the services available through the community and CDPHP.