Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Preventing falls

Among older people, men are more likely to die from a fall, but women are more than twice as likely to suffer a fracture — especially a hip fracture, which often results in long-term impairment and nursing home admission.

If you’re concerned about falling, have your clinician assess your situation, prescribe a plan to put you on a safe track, and help set your mind at ease. To avoid falls, try some of these proven strategies:

  • Exercise. Weak muscles, poor balance, and limited flexibility due to arthritis often turn trips into falls. In one study, a fall-prevention program comprising strength training and balance exercises reduced falls and fall-related injuries by 35% in people ages 80 and over. Yoga or tai chi is also helpful.
  • Check your vision. Age-related vision changes also contribute to accidents and falls. Have regular eye exams, and keep your glasses or contacts up to date.
  • Review your medications. The body’s response to medication, prescription or over-the-counter, changes with age. Regularly review your medications with your clinician, and discuss the possibility of dropping or changing those that may be causing troublesome side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, or impaired balance.
  • Remove home hazards. Improve your home’s lighting with higher wattage, fluorescent bulbs, or additional lamps. Night-lights or other nighttime lighting may also help. Coil loose electrical wires, and affix them safely along walls. Keep stairs and walkways uncluttered. Repair torn carpeting. Remove throw rugs or secure them with nonslip backing or double-sided tape. Rearrange kitchens and closets so that you can easily reach the items you use most often. Install handrails on stairways and landings, and put light switches at the top and bottom of stairways. Use nonslip strips or rubber mats in tubs or showers. Install grab bars in tubs or showers and near the toilet.

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