Guest Article by Deb Lavender, Physical Therapist Owner of Des Peres Physical Therapy
As we age, we tend to fall more, not because getting older causes us to fall, but because it has been more years since we practiced balance. When was the last time you played hopscotch or walked on a straight line? The adage use it, or lose it, applies to our strength, balance and agility. These are all important to make sure we don’t start falling. Preventing falls requires some work. Fortunately, it is easy and the rewards are worth it.
In the United States, falls are the leading cause of injuries among older adults. Twenty-five percent of seniors who fall and have a serious injury die within a year of the fall. If falls don’t lead to an early death, they are likely to lead to surgeries and residual physical disabilities for the rest of your life.
Here are several things you can do that will immediately make your home safer and help prevent falls:
- Get rid of trip hazards like throw rugs, and keep floors free from clutter.
- Brighten your home with extra lighting or brighter light bulbs.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom—next to the toilet, inside and outside of your bathtub or shower.
- Install handrails on both sides of staircases.
- Keep your doctor informed and up–to–date about your medical history and any concerns you have.
- Let your doctor know if you have fallen, if you feel unsteady when standing or walking, or if you are afraid you might fall.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review the medicines you take. Some medicines might make you dizzy or sleepy which can increase your risk of falling. If you are prescribed new medications ask if there is an increase risk of falling, especially the first several weeks as you get use to the new medication.
- And finally – include exercise in your daily activities.
Exercising is as simple as taking a walk every day, stretching, and performing some light weight lifting. Balancing exercises are vital to preventing you from falling. If you have silver sneakers as part of your insurance program join a gym and ask to be set up on a program to increase the strength and balance of your legs. Ask your doctor for a referral to physical therapy so a program can be tailored specifically for you and include any specific concerns you have. You don’t have to become Jack Lalanne as you exercise, but spending 30 minutes a day walking and 15-20 minutes stretching and strengthening will go a long way to preventing you from falling and improve your quality of life.
Deb Lavender, Physical Therapist
Owner of Des Peres Physical Therapy