Falls Prevention Awareness Day is September 22 this year – appropriate, with today being the first day of fall. The day is an opportunity to promote awareness about the dangers of falling and ways to prevent it from happening.
Falls are one of the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among Florida’s elderly population. It has been estimated that more than 200,000 hospital-treated injuries occur each year from falls among Floridians ages 65 and older.
A number of factors can contribute to falls by elders, including changes in balance and gait, vision, medications, environment, as well as chronic conditions. Here are six simple steps you can take to help avoid a fall by an older loved one:
- Take steps to stay safe. Ask your loved one if they are worried about falling. They may know falling is a risk but not one for them to worry about, even if they have had a fall in the past. If they are concerned about a potential fall, help them get in touch with a doctor who can assess their risk and suggest programs that can help.
- Ask about their vision. Find out when the last time your loved one’s eyes were checked by a doctor. Make sure their prescription is current and that they are using their glasses as instructed by their doctor. Be careful of the dangers of bifocals on stairs and the use of tint-changing lenses when coming inside on a sunny day.
- Discuss health conditions. Figure out if your loved one is having trouble managing their own health. Are they remembering to take their medications? Are they experiencing side effects? Are they having trouble doing things that were once easier? Any changes in hearing or vision? Also, make sure they are taking advantage of all the benefits available to them. Have them speak to their health care provider to learn more.
- Address balance and mobility issues. Is your loved one holding onto walls or furniture when walking? Are they having trouble getting up? Physical therapy could be the answer. Exercise can help improve balance, strength, and gait. A cane or walker can be helpful in some situations.
- Discuss their medications. If your loved one is having a hard time keeping track of medications or experiencing side effects, they should speak with their doctor and pharmacist immediately.
- Assess the safety of their home. Walk through your loved one’s home and check for ways to increase lighting, especially near the top and bottom of stairs. Make sure there are two rails on the stairs for balance, and install grab bars in the bathrooms for the tub, shower, and toilet and possibly consider getting a shower chair.
Falls Prevention Awareness Day is all about taking the steps needed to protect our elderly loved ones. With these six simple steps, you can do a lot when it comes to making sure your loved one stays safe and on their feet.