If you are over the age of 65, falls can be dangerous. Aging bones combined with decreasing sight and balance make falling potentially disabling or deadly. In fact, one-third of Americans over the age of 65 will fall each year and more than 2.4 million individuals will require a trip to the emergency room. Almost 22,000 older individuals will die as a result of a fall each year.
Because falls can be so dangerous, it is important to take measures to prevent them. Below are four “REAL” tips that can help decrease your chance of falling and improve your quality of life.
Review Your Medications with Your Doctor
While both prescription and over-the-counter medications can improve your quality of life, many of them can also make you dizzy or drowsy, which in turn increases your chance of falling. Schedule an appointment with a doctor to discuss any medications you are on. Be sure to make a complete list of dosages, frequency and name of all medications, including over-the-counter, prescriptions and supplements. Your doctor may be able to adjust your dosage or recommend a different set of medications which will reduce side-effects.
Since balance issues are often at the heart of falls, while you are in the office, talk to your doctor about any conditions that might be causing balance issues. If you’ve fallen before, even if you caught yourself, you should mention this to your doctor. You can also discuss vitamins and supplements that might help improve balance as well.
As you age, you might find yourself spending less time moving around, because it is difficult or painful. Unfortunately, this can lead to weakness in your legs or core muscles, both of which can lead to falls. Even 15 minutes a day of low impact exercises, such as Tai Chi or water exercise, can strengthen the needed muscles and improve balance.
Since decreased exercise is a factor with many chronic illnesses, an exercise plan will do more than improve your balance. It can also increase your overall health and extend your life.
Appointment with Your Eye Doctor
Declining vision is another major cause of falls. Those with poor eyesight are twice as likely to fall as individuals with normal eyesight of the same age. Make sure you schedule an appointment with an optometrist annually and update your prescription as your eyesight changes.
Look for Hazards around the Home
Nearly 60% of falls happen in the home. As a result, you should go through your house and identify potential hazards before they result in a fall. Special attention should be given to trip hazards, as well as areas with inadequate lighting. An excellent checklist can be found here.
Some seniors might find assistive devices, such as handrails for the shower, to be a helpful addition. There are also a number of technologies that can help with prevention and detection of falls. If you fall, and no one is around then tools such as a Pioneer medical alert system, can save your life.
The tips above, which spell the word “REAL”, can help you to prevent falls and improve your quality of life, giving you more time to spend with your family and loved ones.