Falling safety tips for the elderly include learning how to fall, or avoid falls: add grab bars, clear clutter, take vitamin D & E and exercise.
Fear of Falling? Steps Seniors can Take to Prevent Injuries
About one third of the population over the age of 65 falls each year, and the risk of falls increases proportionately with age. People over age of 85 are up to five times more likely to fall as adults aged 65 to 74. In 2013, 2.5 million nonfatal falls among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 734,000 of these patients were hospitalized.
These are scary statistics. Falling is a big threat to seniors. That does not mean that every person over the age of 65 hurts himself when he falls. My father was an example of someone who fell well. Dad was a stubborn man and even at the age of 85, he often refused to use his walker and sometimes he fell. Fortunately he never hurt himself. Part of the reason could have been luck, but a major reason he never harmed himself was he knew how to fall.
My father was an active man; he was still skiing some fairly treacherous slopes up through his mid seventies. Like any good skier Dad knew how to fall. Whenever he felt himself losing his balance, he would put his skiing techniques in practice. He would bend his knees to lower his center of gravity, twist at the waist to turn his shoulder away from the fall and spread the impact through his leg, thigh and pelvic. He would make sure that he did not fall on any one part of his body. By positioning himself in this way he never came away with more than a few bruises, even though my sister, brother and I would be emotional wrecks for days afterwards.
Of course my family would have felt better if he avoided falling all together. My father was unusual. There is no guarantee other seniors would be as lucky. The best way to avoid fall injuries is not to fall. Here are some common sense steps that seniors can take to avoid them.
Make your home fall proof: One way to avoid falls is to strategically place grab bars in areas around the house where a person is most likely to fall. This includes placing a grab bar next the bed so even if you are groggy when you wake up you can insure your balance. Bathrooms are notorious for falls. Add grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower, and add one next to the toilet.
Remove obstacles like stacks of magazines, pillows, and low tables from the living areas where you can easily trip on them. Make sure small carpets have non-slip padding underneath them, or better yet, replace them with wall-to-wall carpet. Finally improve the lighting in each room and make sure light switches are accessible.
Wear sensible shoes: Your feet become less sensitive as you age so you need shoes that offer more support. Rubber soles are less likely to slide than leather soles and offer a softer cushion. Get rid of platform and spiked heels. Flat shoes offer better balance. If you must wear high heels, make sure the heel in wide enough to make balance easy and that the base is solid and extends from the heel to the arch. Finally make sure your shoes have enough room for your toes to breath. This is particularly necessarily if you are diabetic.
Eat sensibly and take your vitamins: According to a study published in the Journal for American Geriatrics Society, vitamin D supplements increase muscle strength and improve gait and balance in older adults. This study states that a daily dose of supplemental vitamin D of 800 to 1,000 IU consistently demonstrates beneficial effects on strength and balance.
Vitamin E is another important vitamin for seniors. A vitamin E deficiency affects the central nervous system causing nerves in the hands and the feet to degenerate. It is responsible for muscle weakness, loss of balance and creates poor reflexes.
Exercise regularly: A regiment of regular exercise helps prevents falls. A combination of weight bearing, flexibility and endurance exercises keep the muscles toned and lowers the risk of falls. Regular exercise is becoming such an important part of healthy aging that many public and private exercise programs are being initiated in many individual states and throughout the country. The Silver Sneaker Fitness program, a private program offered through several Medicare Advantage health plans is available at select YMCA programs and private health clubs nationwide.
Several states have similar programs. An exercise program called Project Enhance is a partnership between Senior Services; a Seattle Washington based company, the University of Washington, and Group Health Cooperative. In New York City, the City Parks Foundation offers senior fitness programs that include free tennis lessons, exercise classes, swim programs, and fitness walks in 14 parks across the city.
The nation is becoming more aware of the importance of senior health and is developing programs that encourage seniors to age safely and avoid dangerous situations such as falls. By exercising regularly, watching your diet, and making a few changes to your life styles, seniors can expect to live more healthy and productive lives