Updated: Jun 21, 2022
by Anna DiMarco, Senior Physiotherapist
Turning a new leaf in fall prevention
DID YOU KNOW?
Falls continue to be the leading cause of injury among older Canadians. It is estimated that one third of Canadian seniors will fall in a twelve-month period and these falls will account for 85% of seniors’ injury-related hospitalizations.
Once a senior has their first fall, they are more likely to fall a second time within six months, and their likelihood of falling will continue to increase proportionately with advancing age.
Many falls DO NOT RESULT IN SIGNIFICANT INJURY, YET APPROXIMATELY 47% OF NON-INJURED SENIORS WHO HAVE FALLEN CAN NOT GET UP without assistance. This puts them at risk of dehydration, pressure sores, hypothermia, pneumonia, etc.
Fear of falling in the senior population has been shown to be associated with several negative consequences, including, avoidance of normal activities of daily living (hygiene, proper dietary regimes), decreased physical activity (leading to increased weakness and immobility), decreased socialization, depression and overall decreased quality of life.
MINIMIZE YOUR RISK OF FALLING
Unfortunately, as you age, your muscle tone, strength, balance, coordination and reaction time all decrease. It is most definitely much more difficult to recover from a loss of balance or a little slip on the rug as you get older. By exercising regularly, you can help to diminish these age-related changes and improve your ability to stay upright. Talk to your physician or local physiotherapist about a light exercise program to get you started.
Know the Side Effects
Review your medications, prescription and over-the-counter, with your trusted pharmacist or your physician. Some medication or medication combinations may cause light-headedness, dizziness or confusion and this will increase your risk of falling. Sometimes simply adjusting the manner in which your medications are taken will reduce or eliminate these side effects.
Clear the Clutter and Reorganize your Living Space!
Reorganizing your living spaces can be helpful in keeping you safe and on your feet. Take an inventory of the items you use most frequently and place them in the most accessible and appropriate closets and cabinets. Consider tackling the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and linen closets with your personal safety in mind. Get rid of things you haven't used for years and consider leaving the top shelves and cabinets bare as it is near impossible to reach them safely.
Ensure your home is free of clutter, particularly on floor and stair surfaces. Be vigilant and clear your path of anything you can trip over or slip on:
All telephone cords and electrical wires should be tucked away or taped onto a wall
All pet bowls should be removed from floors when not in active use
Throw rugs…. toss them out
Clean up spills immediately
Get rid of furniture that is not sturdy or useful
Get rid of “objects of beauty” that may crowd your space (e.g. Aunt Edith’s antique lamp that no longer works and falls over spontaneously)
Let there be Light!
As we get older, we need increased lighting to assist our decreased visual acuity. Ensure your home is well lit and use several night lights to assist with evening/night time bathroom trips. Be sure to have flashlights (with functional batteries) in major living areas in the event of a power failure.
Rails, Bars and Gadgets
Have handrails installed on both sides of all stairways and be sure to use them when climbing or descending.
You may consider having treads installed on steps to improve traction
When carrying things up or down the stairs, be sure you can see each step.
Wearing good fitting shoes, even indoors, can help improve balance and steadiness on your feet.
Install self-adhesive, non-skid mats or safety treads in bathtubs and shower.
Install grab bars on both sides of the toilet and in bathtub and shower areas.
If you live alone, one gadget that could save your life is a PERS…. personal safety emergency response system that will alert others when help is needed. (e.g. Victoria Lifeline, Life Assure, LiveLife, etc.)
Consult with an Occupational Therapist who can further advise you on creating a safe home environment