One in four seniors visits the emergency room due to falls each year. Even Provo, Utah, home to the healthiest seniors in the US, is no exception. A simple slip can lead to injuries, loss of mobility, or even death. However, falls are considered preventable, and certain measures can reduce or eliminate their occurrence.
1. Get Your Vision Checked
More than 50 percent of Utah seniors with vision problems suffer from falls each year, a sharp rise from the usual 25 percent. Vision plays a significant role in mobility and balance. Poor eyesight increases the risk of tripping on an obstacle, as well as vertigo-related dizziness. Most age-related vision problems in Utah can be fixed with prescription glasses or LASIK Surgery. Poor vision also leads to a drop in quality of life, as individuals who can’t see clearly will have difficulty reading, playing cards, watching movies, or engaging in social activities.
2. Manage Your Neck Pain
Neck and back pain are common in most seniors, and most accept them as inevitable consequences of aging. They can often lead to headaches or bouts of dizziness and vertigo. More than 20 percent of seniors who suffer falls have been experiencing neck or back pains before their mishap. Neck and back pain can also lead to decreased physical activity, which only increases the risk of falling. While exercise and stretching can reduce joint pains, a trip to a chiropractor can be more effective for neck pain relief.
Muscles and bones deteriorate with age, but only if one practices a sedentary or minimally active lifestyle. Exercise or any physical activity can maintain muscle mass and bone density. Certain activities like weight-training and resistance-training can even increase muscle mass and bone density, especially with proper diets.
Exercise also enhances one’s sense of balance, as well as fine motor skills. Physical activities that require brisk movements also keep your reflexes sharp, giving you a few extra milliseconds to react to potentially disastrous situations. 15 to 20 minutes of exercise a day is enough to keep you primed and healthy, reducing the risk of future mobility problems that can increase your risk of falling.
4. Check Yous Doses
Accidental over-medication is a big problem in Utah, and poisoning or overdosing on medication is the leading cause of accidental death among seniors. Over-medication is also one of the leading causes of slips and falls, as too much medication can cause dizzy spells and vertigo. Alzheimer’s plays a significant role in the rise of overdoses as seniors will more likely take another set of pills rather than risk not taking them at all.
Using pill dispensers can be a big help. These devices are loaded with a preset number of pills and will only dispense them once a day. Of course, some medications can be dizzying even at proper doses. Your doctor might not be aware of the side-effects, so make sure to note them in your next visit so they can prescribe more suitable medication.
Around the House
1. Remodel the Bathroom
The majority of accidents (80 percent) in senior homes occur in one place — the bathroom. Seniors tend to use the bathroom more frequently, and tiled surfaces can be slippery. Hard surfaces can also make impacts heavier, increasing the risk of injuries or worse. Using the toilet can be difficult and even unsafe.
Lowering the body to a sitting position can put a lot of stress on the knees, and changing positions or elevation can send blood rushing in or out of the head and cause vertigo. Handrails or supports are essential in making bathroom trips, particularly from the door to the toilet. Supports around the toilet and raised bathroom seats will make its use easier and safer. Showers and baths can be problematic, as soapy water and balance issues can eventually lead to mishaps. Walk-in tubs are a viable option, allowing seniors to bathe while sitting down.
2. Keep the Lights On
Visibility is crucial in avoiding accidents. However, good eyesight won’t matter if you’re in the dark. Fumbling your way through the darkness to reach the switch can be dangerous, as darkness can induce vertigo in most people. Motion-activated lights can be startling and disorienting, as the sudden barrage of stimuli can cause momentary dizziness. Keep the lights on before it gets dark, or use timers that will automatically switch them on during the late afternoon.
Not even Utah’s healthiest seniors are safe from falls. However, falls can be prevented with the right practices and cautionary measures.