There are many things that must be taken into account when planning out our retirement years. Sorting out health care plans, looking over financials and planning for the future monetarily, securing living arrangements and planning for necessary changes, and how to maintain a healthy social network of connections with friends and family. But there is one thing that many seniors may neglect to plan for, which is taking steps to prevent a fall.
A research performed in upstate New York found that older adults who received a fall risk screening, as well as developed a Fall Plan of Care, were less likely to suffer a fall-related injury that sent them to the emergency room or caused an admission to the hospital. Fall prevention activities such as raising awareness about fall risk, discussing prevention strategies, and providing referrals to fall risk reduction programs in the community for older adults have all been found to reduce fall-related hospitalizations.
Having a fall prevention plan is every bit as important as any other planning. For older adults, falls are one of the most common health problems they experience, and a common cause of losing functional independence. Given the frequency and potential consequences of a fall, they are health problems that are every bit as serious as heart attacks and strokes for older adults, and should be treated as such.
What should be in a plan for avoiding falls? Here are some research based tips to consider for creating your own prevention strategy.
- Know your personal risk factors: There are many various health challenges that can raise the risk of a fall. Osteoporosis, arthritis, stroke, vision and hearing loss, foot damage due to diabetic neuropathy, memory loss, and the side effects of many medications are all things that can contribute to the risk of a fall.
- Discuss risk factors with your doctor and management: Your doctor can test your balance, muscle strength and flexibility, as well as evaluate other health conditions and concerns that could raise your risk.
- Review your medications: Bring a list of all your medications, both prescription and over the counter, for your doctor or pharmacist to look over. Many medications can have side effects like dizziness, disorientation, drowsiness, and more, that can all contribute to the risk of a fall.
- Test your hearing and vision: Keep your glasses prescription up to date, and use your hearing aids if you have them.
- Check up on your home safety: Remove clutter and repair or remove loose carpeting. Install handrails on stairs, in the bathrooms, and improve the lighting in your halls and other walkways.
- Exercise: Physical activity is one of the best ways to lower your fall risk. If you’re hesitant to engage in exercise because you’re afraid of hurting yourself, ask your doctor for safe exercise strategies.
- Wear the right shoes: Shoes should be well-fitted, with a low heel and a thin hard sole. Your shoes should be replaced when worn out as well. Avoid slippers and flip flops. Choose shoes suited to the environment as well, for example something with good traction on dry, flat ground might be a liability on wet, uneven terrain.