September is Fall Prevention Month. The October episode of Aging Insights (all episodes can be seen here.) will feature two professionals talking about ways to prevent falls at home. Here are some tips from one of them, Linda A. Lucuski, MPT, Certified Vestibular Rehab Specialist at University Medical Center of Princeton, Outpatient Rehab at Hamilton.
Life can become a challenge when simple movements such as bending or turning suddenly cause you to become dizzy, experience vertigo or fall.
Dizziness is a sensation of movement and a feeling of falling. The individual may experience light-headedness, giddiness, swimming or floating. Vertigo is a sensation that the individual or the world around him or her is spinning or whirling about. Disequilibrium is the lack or loss of equilibrium or stability and a fall is defined as a loss of an upright or erect position suddenly. The individual does not have to land on the floor to qualify as a fall. By age 65 about 30% of the population in the United States will experience episodes of dizziness and will report a significant fall annually. These rates become significantly higher for individuals with impaired mobility. Falls can be one of the leading causes of hospital stays, fractures and even deaths in people over the age of 65.
All too often, a fall may result in loss of movement and activity, which may cause weakness, loss of mobility and then an even greater risk for another fall. Don’t limit your activity to prevent falls. Reduce your chance of a fall by following these guidelines:
Review your medications with your physician, pharmacist or health care provider. Many medications may cause dizziness, drowsiness or lethargy and may cause you to fall.
Have your eyes examined yearly and clean your glasses on a daily basis.
Keep moving. Exercise helps to strengthen your muscles and improve the mobility of your joints.
Consider a home safety assessment. Insurance companies may pay for this assessment when prescribed by your physician and performed by a physical or occupational therapist.
A physical therapy evaluation and treatment program may be appropriate for individuals with loss of balance and who fall frequently. Treatment may occur in your home or in an outpatient rehab center.
Wear sensible shoes. High heels, sloppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. So can walking in socks or stockings. Have your feet measured each time you buy shoes as foot size can change. Wear proper fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles and choose lace-up or velcro closed shoes instead of slip-ons.
Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping over objects that are hard to see. Use nightlights in bedroom, bathroom and hallways. Have a lamp within reach of your bed and glow in the dark or illuminated light switches. Turn on lights when going up/down stairs. Have flashlights and batteries readily available.
Be aware of loose cords and wires. Remove clutter, especially in walkways. Place non-skid liners under carpets and remove throw rugs. Be aware of wet floors, both at home and in the community.
Consider purchasing a cordless phone that you can keep by your bed. You may also take the phone with you when you are outdoors, going to the mail box, etc.
Place non-skid strips in the bottom of the bathtub. Use a tub seat and a hand held shower if you experience loss of balance while showering. Install grab bars for easy access to the tub or shower.
Use railings on both sides of indoor and outdoor stairs. Place rubber stair treads on stairs to reduce slipping. Be aware of small pets that may get underfoot while walking or climbing stairs.
Falls may be prevented by following the guidelines above. Pay attention to your environment, stay mobile with gentle exercise and speak to your health care provider regarding any falls that occur.
Be sure to tune in to Aging Insights in October for the Fall Prevention Episode!