Everyone will experience a fall in the home or community at some point (some of us more often the others), and the consequences of this are usually no more than a few bruises and a wounded ego. However, as we age, the consequences of a fall become more sinister, and thus the importance of preventing them increases.
There are a number of approaches to preventing falls, and they are all important:
Stay active! We have all heard the phrase “use it or lose it”, but “move it or lose it” is just as accurate in this case. The absolute best thing to help reduce your risk of disease, declining cognitive function and yes, falls, is exercise. There are mountains of evidence piling up to support this, and when it comes to the aging individual, exercise is going help with mental function, joint health, pain reduction, independence, and balance.
The more sedentary you are, the more your muscles will get smaller and weaker, contributing to weaker bones, slower reflexes, balance impairments and less ‘padding’ for if you do fall.
There are some exercises and activity types that are better for maintaining muscle strength and bone density, but any increase in activity is going to help, just make sure if it is something you haven’t done before that you pace yourself, and if you have any specific medical conditions, it’s best to see your doctor first, and ensure that your physical activity program is developed and monitored by a physiotherapist.
Improve your balance and reaction speed. Your balance is a function of your muscles, joints and ligaments, and as we age, they need more specific training to maintain their ability. This can be accomplished with specific exercises meant to improve balance, but also by increasing muscles strength in key muscles. Also, training your reflexes in safe environment, such as a quick step to the front if you stumble, is important. Your physiotherapist will be able to create an exercise plan for you that will address your balance impairments.
Ensure you’re getting adequate nutrition. This can be a big challenge for some people, but your muscles need fuel to work properly, and your bones need calcium and vitamin D to maintain their density. This isn’t always straight forward to correct, so if you think you may need help, see your doctor about any questions you might have.
Look around your home and reduce the hazards. Some things are easy like tidying up so there are no items lying around you may trip on, or fastening down loose carpets, getting the loose step fixed, etc. But if you have a dark area of your home, increased lighting might help, or a few more handrails if you have an older home. If you think your home needs more supports, see your doctor about a referral for an Occupational Therapist to come to you home and make suggestions.
Lastly, if you use a cane or walker, make sure it is set up right for you. I'm always amazed at how many people I see using equipment that has not been correctly adjusted; you wouldn't drive a car if the brakes or steering were obviously wrong...right?
While age is a risk factor we cannot change, there is plenty of steps you can take to reduce your risk and continue to be active and healthy, well into your Golden Years. Make an appointment with us and we can discuss your specific issues and come up with a tailored plan to help you get the most out of life!