Falling in one’s home causes many life-threatening injuries and jeopardizes the independence of over one third of Kentucky’s senior population (65+) each year. Falls do not have to be a part of growing older, however, as fall-related injuries are often preventable.
Four simple ways to reduce the risk of a fall include exercise, healthy vision, safe home environments and smart medication usage.
Exercise, especially an activity that improves balance and coordination such as tai chi, is a key in preventing falls. Lifting weights can reduce the risk of a fall as it strengthens muscles and bones and helps you feel better and stronger. It’s important to consult with a physician or health care provider before starting an exercise program to find one that is right for you.
It is normal for vision to change with age, but poor vision increases the chances of falling. You can minimize poor vision by having annual eye exams, maintaining and wearing the correct prescription glasses and contacts, and controlling your exposure to glare and changes in light.
More than half of all falls occur at home. Living in an unsafe or cluttered environment increases the risk of falls. To avoid accidents, make sure tripping hazards, such as a grandchild’s toy or an extension cord, are off the floor. Proper lighting and appropriate shoes with non-slip soles and low heels are also helpful. It is also wise to wear an emergency alert button or keep a cell or cordless phone with you at all times in case of an emergency.
Finally, medication or a combination of medicines can sometimes have adverse effects that can make you feel dizzy or drowsy. It is important to have a physician or pharmacist review all prescription and over-the-counter medications to help reduce the risk of falling.
The fear of falling is also a risk factor for falls. Sometimes people become inactive or socially isolated because they fear falling. If you find yourself in this situation, let your physician know. Your physician may help you get to the root of your fear or even refer you to a physical therapist who can design an exercise program to meet your needs.
The Harlan County Cooperative Extension Service is offering a lesson on “Don’t Let Falls Get You Down.” This program aims to educate participants about the risk of falling and ways to prevent falls and the fear of falling in order to help older adults stay safer and more independent as they age. The training will be taught on Thursday at 10 a.m. by Rebecca Sharp-Miller, Bell County Family & Consumer Science Agent, at the Harlan County Extension Depot.
Injury prevention is extremely important at all stages of life. For many older Kentuckians, certain types of injuries can be life threatening. Often, these are injuries that could have been prevented by taking simple, precautionary measures to avoid falls. We know elderly people who have osteoporosis or arthritis are more at-risk of severe complications for a fall. We want to let people know there are steps that can be taken to reduce these risks.
To prevent falls, older Kentuckians should adhere to the following guidelines:
Exercise regularly to increase strength and improve balance;
Ask a physician to review medications to reduce the risk of harmful side effects;
Have a vision check at least once a year;
Improve lighting in the home;
Reduce hazards in the home that can lead to falls.
These simple precautions can make all the difference when it comes to staying safe, healthy and independent.
For more informative educational information, contact the Harlan County Cooperative Extension Service located at 519 South Main Street in Harlan or call 606-573-4464.
Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.