If you’re like millions of Americans, coronavirus restrictions have you staying inside most of the time. While this action helps keep the virus from spreading, sheltering in place can also result in negative health consequences for baby boomers and older adults, as I’ve written about previously. And of paramount concern is that limited movement might increase the risk of falling for many seniors.
With that in mind, I’m re-posting a blog from last year addressing the issue of fall prevention.
For many reasons, older adults can experience a fear of falling. And that anxiety may keep them from leaving the home and participating in fitness-building activities.
Unfortunately, falls are an all-too common occurrence. Every 13 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall, and every 20 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall!
You Only Thought It Was True…
Here are four myths about falls, debunked by the National Council on Aging (NCOA):
1) Myth: Falling happens to other people, not me.
Reality: Falls can happen to anyone; 1 in 3 older adults falls every year in the U.S.
2) Myth: Falling is a normal part of aging.
Reality: Falling is not a normal part of aging. We can all take steps to decrease the risk of falls with strength and balance exercises, being careful with medications, having our vision checked, and making our home safe.
3) Myth: I can avoid falls if I stay at home.
Reality: More than half of all falls take place at home. My clients and relatives have all fallen more at home than in other locations.
4) Myth: Muscle strength and balance can’t be regained.
Reality: While we do lose muscle strength as we age, it’s never too late to start an exercise program–especially strength (resistance) training–to partially restore strength and flexibility to protect against falling.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Falling
Here are six steps to help prevent falls. You can use this information to protect yourself, your spouse, friend, or other older adults:
- Check your environment.
Make sure your home (or that of an older loved one) is well lit in all areas, and lightbulbs are replaced regularly; remove tripping hazards such as small rugs and wiring that gets into walk areas; install grab bars in bathrooms and tubs/showers.
2) Scrutinize medications.
Have your healthcare provider look closely at all medications–prescription and over-the-counter. Side effects may increase the risk of falling; take only as prescribed.
3) Consider vision and hearing.
Problems with your eyes and ears can increase your risk of falling. Get your vision and hearing checked annually, and keep eyeglass prescriptions updated. (Note: optometrists and audiologists may be open now in your area on a limited basis; check with your health care plan.)
4) Talk to your healthcare providers.
They can help assess your risk of falling and refer you to helpful resources.
5) Talk to your family members.
Enlist their support.
6) Improve balance and gait, and muscle strength.
Keep moving! Look for a program to build balance, strength and flexibility. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging or senior center for referrals. Find a program you like and take a friend (when the quarantine lifts!)