All of my kids played soccer. Penny and I went to a million soccer games in our lifetime – well, maybe only 100,000. In any case, it was a lot.
When your kids fall and bounce back up to kick the ball, that’s impressive. Few older adults can bang into each other and bounce back. More likely, they’d stay down on the ground and eventually end up in the emergency room.
If you fall and break your hip as a senior, it more than just hurts – there’s a 40 percent chance you’ll finish out your life in a nursing home. And get this: The death rate for older people during that first year after a fall is double. Whew!
If you’re like me, you buckle up every time you get into the car to protect yourself from a serious crash. But have you ever thought for more than five minutes about reducing your risk of falling? Falls for folks 65 and older are the leading cause of ER visits and hospitalizations.
So what is a person to do? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Step 1: Think.
Most people spend more time thinking about which flat-screen TV they’re going to buy than they do about safety. The first step is to sit down with a pencil and paper and prepare to make a list. Are you ready? OK, now go to Step 2.
Step 2: Review your physical space.
Do you have nightlights around the house so when nature calls at night you don’t trip in the dark and fall? Are you safe in the shower? Do you need grab bars, a shower chair, perhaps non-slip shower shoes? The bathroom is a most common place for serious accidents to occur.
Do you have throw rugs around the house? You might need to toss them out or put them away so they don’t become a tripping hazard. And check your staircases. Are there solid railings to help steady yourself going up and down?
How about outside spaces? Are they well-lit with safe steps? Go through every space you visit in your home life – inside and out – and check off what you might need to adult-proof your house.
Step 3: Review your physical shape.
When it comes to falls, it only makes sense that balance is an issue. If you’re wobbly, you might need an assistance device such as a cane or a walker. Or you might just need to take a Tai Chi or similar class, perhaps yoga, to improve your balance.
Here’s where advice from knowledgeable people can help guide you to better physical health. Exercise – walking, dancing, swimming, doing the treadmill, bike or elliptical – can help you achieve better strength and cardio fitness. But balance can be more complicated and seeking outside advice helps.
Step 4: Review your pills.
Do your medications make you dizzy? If so, does it always happen or just when you stand up? Your clinician can help you evaluate the situation. Pharmacists also are great for discussing these conditions and other potential drug interactions.
If you think those medication printout sheets they give you at the pharmacy are good, think again. They’re like the paperwork you sign when you rent a car – worthless gobbledygook. Professional and personal advice is the key.
Step 5: Take action.
A sheet of paper with a list of ideas and suggestions is an awesome first step, but it means nothing if you don’t take the time to act.
My spin: To keep perilous falls from befalling you, think safety, safety, safety. Stay well.