Fall prevention is a topic that is dear to many of us. My mother fell while taking a morning stroll in a quiet gated community in South Orlando. She was walking alone when she fell. That was the last time she took a stroll through the neighborhood. She was only 78 and died four years later.

A large playful dog, that was not leashed, jumped on her small-framed body causing her to fall and fracture her pelvis. The idyllic gated-community had a pet leash policy, but was not enforced. When my sister tried contacting the dog’s owner, she found out that the owner had flown to Europe a few days following the mishap.

We may not have been able to prevent a playful dog from jumping on my mother, but we could have done more. A caregiver could have walked alongside during her morning walks while everyone was at school or at work.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, one out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year. The CDC states, “Seniors who are 75 and older, are five times more likely than those age 65 to 74 to be admitted to a long-term care facility.”

There are three aspects to consider when improving fall prevention and lowering risks: Individual Factors, Outside Fall Risk Prevention, and Indoor Fall Risk Prevention

Individual Factors

- - Seniors should visit their doctor and discuss their fall concerns. Be outspoken, and ask, “What can I do to   prevent a fall?” Have medications checked by the physician to see which prescriptions, along with over-the-counter medications, could increase the chances of becoming dizzy, losing balance, and maybe even triggering a fall. Ask the doctor about osteoporosis. A physician may even order a test.
- - Have periodic vision and hearing checkups. Some recommend that these be done annually.
- - If one of your loved ones is a fall risk, but wants to include a daily exercise routine, hire a qualified and trained     caregiver who can accompany your parent on walks, trips to the gym, or even stand-by when they’re exercising at home.
- - What type of exercise is the right one? A physician may also help identify the appropriate exercise. Not everyone can do high-impact cardio exercises, let alone run or jog. Some individuals may only be able to go for short walks, do yoga, Tai-Chi, or use an indoor bike.
- - When going for a walk or exercising wear shoes with good foot support. Soles should not be slippery.
- - Wear loose fitting clothes.
- - Drink water before and after exercising or walking.

Outside Fall Risk Prevention

- - Check with your community about dog-leash rules, and assess how these are enforced.
- - Make sure your own garden paths, along with your front sidewalk and driveway, are free from debris. Try widening your garden paths so individuals will be comfortable walking on these with or without a walker. Some homeowners place decorative yet wobbly stepping stones in their yard. Some of these paths turn out to be a liability for the homeowner.
- - If you have front steps, railings, and landings, check their condition. If possible, try improving on the width of the steps and the landing. Could your grandparents turn their walker around without any problem?  Clear the landing from any clutter. Move your potted plants away from the path. Are the railings secure? Do the front door mats slip and slide?
- - Do you need a sturdy ramp, in case a wheelchair is being used? Find a ramp that best suits the type of wheelchair. Is your loved one using an electric wheelchair or non-electric? There are portable folding ramps, threshold ramps, modular ramps, solid ramps, fixed ramps, among many others.

Indoor Fall Risk Prevention

- - Clear clutter from paths, and remove throw rugs. Yes, some are cute but are these necessary? Watch out for electrical cords. Place these away from paths. Use a walker or a wheelchair to see if these fit while testing different walkways and paths inside the house. Excess furniture may get in the way, and if not needed store it away.
- - Quickly wipe up spills.
- - Do not use a chair to reach for an upper cabinet; a better choice would be to use a sturdy stepping stool with a handle that you can grab.
- - Use rubber safety treads and strips on stairs and steps. Some safety strips are made for the visually impaired, Check stair railings inside the home, too.
- - Install safety grab bars inside and outside the shower and tub areas, and next to the toilet. Do not use the towel bars nor the sliding glass shower doors to hold a person up. Add only non-slip mats in bathtubs and on shower floors.
- - Lighting is essential. Make sure that the house is well lit, including hallways and paths. Some lights can be installed or plugged into wall outlets. Some lights have sensors, and light up automatically when it becomes dark.
- - Do you need threshold ramps in the bathroom or other rooms?

We hope that some of these tips will help minimize fall risks. Falls can occur, but we need to do our best to minimize the chances of this occurring.

Ana Pernia de Lane
Senior Helpers Orlando

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