Many people think falls are a normal part of aging. The truth is they’re not. Most falls are preventable – and you have the power to reduce your risk. How? Exercising, managing your medications, having your vision checked and making your living environment safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.
According to the National Council on Aging, 12 million older adults fall each year. An older adult is seen every 13 seconds in emergency departments across the country for a fall-related injury. And the fallout from taking a tumble can be serious: Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury among older adults.
So what can you do to keep steady on your feet and stay out of the hospital from fall-related injuries?
- Find a good balance and exercise program. Staying physically active will help you stay independent, as your strength and range of motion benefit from regular movement. Whatever program you choose, look to build balance, strength and flexibility. Pick a program you like and take a friend. It’s never too late to get more active; every little bit helps. Choose from an assortment of fitness classes offered by health plan.
- Talk to your health care provider. Ask your doctor to assess your risk for falling. Share your history of recent falls – and be sure to note any symptoms of concern, such as dizzy spells, blurred vision or muscle weakness.
- Review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist. Make sure side effects aren’t increasing your risk of falling. Medications affect people differently; some can make you dizzy or sleepy. Take your medications only as prescribed and contact your doctor or pharmacist immediately if you experience any concerning side effects.
- Check your vision and hearing every year. Your eyes and ears are critical to keeping you on your feet. Annual eye and hearing exams can help keep you steady, and if your vision has changed, make sure to update your eyewear with a new prescription. People who have vision problems are twice as likely to fall as those without vision impairment.
- Keep your home safe. More than half of all falls take place at home. Some things you can do to reduce your risk of falling include removing tripping hazards such as rugs with upturned corners or small furniture; increasing lighting; placing treads on stairs; and installing grab bars in problem places such as showers and tubs.
- Get support. Fall prevention is a team effort. Talk to your family members and enlist their help in taking simple steps to stay safe, whether it’s getting you to your doctor’s appointments or helping you “fall-proof” your home.