By Jo Strausz Rosen
Every second of every day an older adult falls. I was one of these statistics. In my excitement to prepare to have dinner with friends on their patio (after all, this is a pandemic), I was multi-tasking – carrying laundry down the stairs, my mind on my recipes and as my mobile phone rang in my back pocket, I reached to grab it. I should have been holding onto the rail. I should have been paying attention to the steps. I tripped and fell down the last 3 stairs and it was then that I knew that both my knee and ankle were injured. Ugh…. After several appointments to the er, then orthopedic surgeon and many follow up appointments with a physical therapist, they are better. But then I slipped on a subway in Boston and fell hard on my hip. It’s never been the same. Falls are a symptom of aging. Many of these falls cause injury, loss of independence, and in some cases, death. Falls can be prevented. I did some research about this and decided to share what I learned.
Activities that improve balance and strengthen legs (like Tai Chi) can prevent falls. Exercise and movement makes us feel better and more confident. Check to find the best type of exercise for you and your loved ones. Additionally, have your eyes and feet checked. Having a doctor check your ability to see and walk comfortably can help prevent falls.
MAKE YOUR HOME SAFE.
At the end, you’ll find a link to a home fall prevention checklist for older adults. At JSL we discuss fall prevention regularly and have established entire systems of behavior in prevention and then what to do if a fall takes place.
KEEP STAIRS SAFE
How many of us have tripped on our way up or down the stairs? Discovering and fixing dangerous stairs is essential to preventing falls in your home. Is the carpet on the steps loose or torn? Make sure it’s firmly attached to every step or remove the carpet and attach non-slip rubber treads. Always keep objects off the stairs. Are handrails loose or broken? Is there a handrail on only one side of the stairs? Add another so both sides of the stairs are covered if possible. Are steps broken or uneven? Get them fixed.
KEEP YOUR HOME WELL LIT
Ask an electrician to install overhead lighting with a switch at both the top and bottom of the stairs, or down the hall. You can install light switches that glow and that turn on automatically when you’re nearby. If you have a burnt-out bulb, ask a friend or family member to change it.
Make sure your outside doors and porch are well lighted.
CUT THE CLUTTER
Are there papers, shoes, books, or other clutter on the stairs or in other places where you walk? When you walk through a room, do you have to navigate tight pathways around furniture? If necessary, ask someone to help you move things, so your path is clear.
Pick your things up and place them on tables, dressers, or shelves. If you hoard magazines (like I do), find a place to store them away from your walking paths.
Do you have to walk over or around wires or cords (like lamp, telephone, or extension cords)? Coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall so you can’t trip over these. You might need more outlets. Ask an electrician to help.
ARE YOUR FLOORS SAFE?
Do you have throw rugs on the floor? Remove them or use double sided tape or a non-slip backing so rugs are secured. In areas with slippery floors (like some tiles), consider adding safe rugs or carpets.
Keep the things you use most often on lower shelves (about waist high)
Make sure you have a sturdy step stool nearby to help you reach higher cupboards.
Never use a chair as a step stool.
Is the light near the bed hard to reach? Make sure your lamp is close by and easily reachable in the dark. Add a nightlight so you can see where you are walking in the dark. Some nightlights go on by themselves after dark or when you walk nearby, or get one that turns on when you clap your hands.
Is the tub or shower floor slippery?
Put a non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips on the floor.
If you need some support when you get in and out of the tub or on or off the toilet, there are many products such as grab bars on the market.
Keep an up-to-date list of medications. Show your healthcare provider or pharmacist all your meds and your loved one’s meds, including over-the-counter meds and supplements. Discuss any side effects like feeling dizzy or sleepy. Keep a list of all your medications, including the name and dosage (see the link below), and keep it up to date. Make sure your family or friends have it or know where it is. Also, ask your healthcare provider about taking Vitamin D supplements to improve bone, muscle, and nerve health.
ESSENTIAL INFORMATION: Talk openly with your loved ones and their healthcare provider about fall risks and prevention. Report to your healthcare provider right away if you or your loved one seems unsteady or has fallen. Our JSL residents are fortunate that our staff has thought through all of these safety measures (and many more) and will assist and advise residents on how to keep their living spaces safe places to be.
Check AARP for listing your medications and print a “Personal Medication Record” arp.org
For a wealth of information on aging, visit the National Council on Aging for seminars, events and life saving tips. https://fe.qa.ncoa.org/search