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When Seniors Fall: Prevention Tips

Many falls may be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices and safety modifications.

Each year one out of three Americans age 65 and older falls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As caregivers and seniors know this is a huge problem with falls as the "leading cause of injury, death and emergency room visits for people over age 65," according to a fact sheet on falling from the Florida Hospital North Pinellas.

Fallling has serious consequences for seniors.

About 20 to 30 percent of individuals "who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries, such as lacerations, hip fractures, or head traumas," according to the Centers for Disease Control.

"Often times a person falls because their body has become so inactive over
the years, their strength and balance has diminished.  After a fall,
individuals tend to reduce their activity levels and become more fearful of
falling and even more inactive, lending to muscle atrophy and increased risk
of falling again," explained Matter of Balance Coach, Kristopher Whitaker.

The good news is that "many falls can be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices and safety modifications in the home," according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

To help prevent falls three body systems work together to achieve balance, including the inner ear, which helps people know where they are in space.

Vision and sensory input from the brain allow people to notice changes in floor surface, according to Amy Brenner, Physical Therapist at Florida Hospital North Pinellas.

Physical therapy is "great for strengthening and determining what component of balance might be affected," Brenner said.

Brenner suggested ways to help prevent falls, based on guidelines from the CDC.

  • Exercise regularly (check with a doctor first). 
  • Have a doctor or pharmacist check all medicines to determine if they cause dizziness or sleepiness.
  • Have an eye doctor check vision at least once a year.
  • Remove throw rugs or use non-slip backing to prevent rugs from slipping.
  • Have a clear path to go through a room, making sure furniture is out of the way.
  • Sore commonly used kitchen utensils at waist level for easy access
  • Have a carpenter install grab bars in the tub and next to the toilet, if you need support to get in and out of the tub and up from the toilet.
  • Place a lamp close to the bed so it's easily accessible.

The West Central Florida Area Agency on Aging offers Matter of Balance classes  and community resources to help with fall prevention around Hillsborough County.

The main goals of the Matter of Balance program are:

  • To view falls and the fear of falling as controllable;  
  • To set realistic goals for increasing activity;
  • To change the environment to reduce fall risk factors;
  • To promote exercise to increase strength and balance.

Want more great stories about caregiving and senior wellness? Check our Westchase Patch Caregiving Guide.

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