September 22 was National Falls Prevention Awareness Day. It’s the beginning of fall, and therefore the perfect time to talk about falls.
Falls are the leading cause of accidental deaths among older adults. In 2013, the CDC’s data indicates that almost 25,464 older adults over the age of 65 died because of falls or fall-related injuries. In addition to this, falls also represent the most common cause of accidents that did not lead to death as well as the most prevalent admittance to a hospital due to trauma for an older adult. A hospital is not the place where any of us want to see our loved ones, but older adults are especially susceptible to other issues when they enter a hospital. Keeping older adults out of the hospital is a goal we all share.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has some resources if you want to start a conversation with a loved one about being able to maintain their independence while preventing falls. (read more here and here).
A couple of things to keep in mind. Keeping active helps in the prevention of falls. I understand that it’s more difficult to get around, but as a 103 year old client once told me “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. She’s not the only one who has said that, but it still rings true. Do you what you can even if it’s walking out to the mailbox and back. Or maybe chair exercises in the morning. Use your cane or walker, and use it like you’re taught! The PTs and OTs teach us to use our canes and walkers in a manner that takes advantage of our strengths. And, unfortunately, using it in a different manner is like trying to sit in a two legged chair. Holding on to furniture and walls can also be an issue. I went to a house yesterday and was quite impressed to find how well they had set themselves up. They had railings down the hallways, bars in the bathroom, bars by the toilet, it was heavenly. They even had the edge of the rugs taped down! Sigh. In my business, this is like the banana split I had for dinner the other week. I don’t know if they had a OT or PT come into their home to evaluate it, but if they did, my kudos go out to that professional! Which reminds me, there are therapists (OT/PT) who will come out to evaluate your home. They’ll make recommendations on the lighting and where to put the bars etc.
In case you were wondering, this is one of those ways to make your home more conducive to aging in place. If you remember, I’ve talked several times in my posts about planning ahead and planning early.
The NCOA also recommends that you know your medications. Find out what the side effects are and how they will interact with the other medication you take. Will they make you dizzy or groggy? Should you take it and then plan on watching TV or reading a book for a while afterwards? Know the prognosis and procession of any chronic illnesses you might have. Is there anything that might make it more difficult for you to maintain your balance? And don’t forget to take care of your eyes. I learned that we take in 80% of our information via our eyes. Certainly, I am constantly finding random bruises on my arms from bumping into things and that’s with 20/20 vision! Can you imagine when life catches up to my eyes?! I guess I’d better keep exercising. . .
Christine Bitzer, LICSW, is the Assistant Director of Seabury Resources for Aging’s Care Management service. Care managers work with older adults on an individual basis to advise them on a variety of issues and services; such as home care, transportation, medical/legal assistance and housing. Families are put at ease having a knowledgeable guide to provide recommendations and resources to meet their unique needs. This expertise can save families money and reduce stress and time away from work. Christine can be reached at (202)364-9663 or email her at CBitzer@seaburyresources.org
Featured Image: Flickr @pkehres