Each year, one in four adults aged 65 years and older falls. These falls lead to 2.8 million emergency room visits and about 750,000 hospitalizations. Falls are the leading cause of accidental injury and death for older adults, resulting in over 27,000 deaths annually. While falls can’t totally be prevented, the Jackson County Department of Public Health and the Injury and Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team offer the following tips to help greatly reduce the likelihood of falls.
First, reduce clutter inside your home, especially on the stairs or on the floor. This includes shoes, books, or decorative items such as baskets or vases. Throw rugs need to be made non-slip or removed altogether. Rooms and hallways should be well lit; consider putting a working flashlight next to your bed for emergency use.
Next, avoid walking around in slippers or socks inside your home. Wear low-heeled shoes with rubber soles. Install railings or grab bars on stairways, in bathtubs, or around toilets to aid in steadiness and balance. Place dishes and cooking items at a height that is easy to reach.
Consider having a medical provider complete a medication check of the prescriptions that you take. Some medications can cause dizziness or sleepiness. Precautions need to be taken when on medications that cause these side effects.
Lastly, add exercise into your life to prevent falls. Performing targeted physical activity can help you maintain your independence by developing strength and range of motion. Many balance classes, such as Walk with Ease and Tai Chi, are available at the Jackson County Senior Center to help older adults improve muscle tone and balance.
All falls can’t be prevented but they can be reduced. Further, an individual’s confidence and independence can be preserved for as long as possible by taking small steps such as those listed above. For questions on fall prevention, call Janelle Messer, Health Education Supervisor, at 828-587-8238.