Everyone will have falls at some point in their life. Children fall all the time, usually with little (or no) consequence. The dangers of falling increase with age. They are “the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations among Canadian seniors, and between 20% and 30% of seniors fall each year,” says a report from the Public Health Agency of Canada. Falls can lead to injury, which can result in hospitalization, decreased mobility, and even complications like pneumonia or death. It is crucial to do everything you can to prevent yourself and your loved one from falling as you age.
Here are some tips to prevent you or your loved one from experiencing a fall:
EXERCISE | Exercise may be the single most important thing that you can do to prevent a fall. Physiotherapist Barbara Adams says she can predict falls months ahead of time in seniors, based on their balance, speed of walking, and distance of steps. Get out for walks, even if it’s just a short one, at least once a day. Squat! Try just standing up and sitting down when you’re on the couch or at the kitchen table, then repeat the exercise multiple times. When you start to feel comfortable with that exercise, try it with just the aid of the back of a chair, and then finally without any assistance. This exercise will strengthen your back, legs, core, and buttocks – all of which help you to increase balance.
TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR | Make sure you understand the side effects of any medications you’re on. Some can decrease balance or cause dizziness, putting you at greater risk of a fall. Your doctor can also help you assess any other health issues that could put you at risk, such as issues with vision.
WEAR PROPER FOOTWEAR | What your mother told you is still true! Wear proper footwear – always. Make sure you are as sturdy as you can be, and change your shoes based on the weather. Consider strap-on ice grips for the winter months, and make sure your summer sandals don’t shift on your feet too much.
REMOVE HAZARDS | Do a thorough walk-through of your house and look for any hazards. Is there a rug that you or other people often trip over? Are you comfortable on the stairs? How do you feel when you get in and out of the shower? Assess the risks and make changes.
USE EQUIPMENT | If you think that some extra equipment in your home could help you, such as a bar next to the toilet, a stool in the bathtub, etc., talk to your doctor. Make sure to explain the barriers you’re having to feeling safe in your home, or when you’re out in public, so your doctor can adequately recommend supports. Some pharmacies such as Davies offers equipment rentals.
For more information on preventing falls, take a look at this handbook from Vancouver Coastal Health.
Cassandra Van Dyck