If you’re like some baby boomers and older adults, you might have a fear of falling. For some people, that anxiety keeps 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!
Fortunately, we can all take steps to avoid falls! Yesterday was the annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day. This event, sponsored by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), raises awareness about how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults.
You Only Thought It Was True…
Here are some four falls myths–debunked–from NCOA:
1) Myth: Falling happens to other people, not me.
Reality: Falls can happen to anyone; 1 in 3 older adults fall 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, care with medications, having your vision checked, and making your 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 my mother 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 Against Falling
Here are six steps to help prevent falls. You can use this information to protect yourself, your spouse, friend, or older adults:
- Check your environment.
Make sure your home (or that of an older loved on) 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 eyeglasses updated.
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.