Yes, I'm talking about falls again. I have to! Falls can be extremely dangerous for older persons and can result in broken bones, head injury, shaken confidence and immobility. As I mentioned in the review on the Falls Prevention Programme, it is extremely important to do what we can to prevent falls in older persons. The most important change to make includes doing regular strength and balance exercises. In addition, below are 10 tips to help you take necessary action in preventing costly, potentially traumatic falls:
"Falls can be extremely dangerous for older persons and can result in broken bones, head injury, shaken confidence and immobility..."
1. Check your eyesight - your vision plays an important role in your sense of balance and movement. It is a good idea to check your eyes at least every 2 years. Remember that bifocal glasses can make objects appear closer than they really are and could cause you to trip or lose balance. Ask your Optician for advice. And if the cost is a problem, call your local social services division and ask if you qualify for any relevant grants or assistance.
2. Manage your medications - some medications can make you faint, unsteady or light-headed on your feet. These include tablets for high blood pressure, diabetes and insomnia. Talk to your doctor about it and ask if the dose can be reduced, or the medication changed.
3. Ensure good lighting around the house, especially on the stairs. If you need to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, use a night light or switch on the light first before doing anything else.
4. Have handrails fitted in the bathroom or on the stairs to make it safer and easier to get in and out of the shower, or to climb the stairs. Remember it's better to be safe than sorry and handrails cost very little compared to the cost and pain of breaking your hip.
5. Keep your house clear - rearrange your furniture to help you move around or to prevent you from bumping into things. Keep the floor clear of anything that might make you trip, such as carpets, boxes, cords or anything else.
6. Remember pets can cause you to fall as well as they tend to scurry under your feet! Put a bell on their collar to alert you of their presence or use a brightly coloured collar so you will see them better (e.g. red).
7. Use a non-skid mat in the bathroom or if you already have a mat that you like, you can stick a rubber sheet underneath to prevent it from moving. Alternatively, if you are re-doing your bathroom, put in non-skid tiles. Wet tiles are notorious for making people fall!
8. Avoid standing on a chair to change light bulbs or to hang up curtains. Ask someone else to do this or if you have to, use a stepladder.
9. In the garden or yard watch out for uneven paths, sharp stones and slippery surfaces after it rains. Keep foot paths clear. Put in railings or a ramp as needed.
10. Use proper footwear and clothes - it is important to choose suitable shoes that fit you well. Buy shoes with a good grip, low heels and high sides. Inspect your shoes. Think about what problems you have with respect to walking. Let's take Diabetes for example. People with Diabetes over time can develop a loss of sensation in their feet. You might often wear sneakers which tend to be well-cushioned and are very comfortable, but tend to have thick soles. Therefore, because you cannot feel the floor this may make you more unsteady. Avoid rubber slippers as they invariably make people fall. Avoid flared pants or clothing that trails to the ground. Avoid walking in slippery socks or tights. You can buy special socks that have a grip underneath.
AND ABOVE ALL
Continue to exercise regularly to improve your strength and balance.
Dr James Bratt, Lead Consultant at Age Caribbean and Geriatric Psychicatrist.