Many remember Actress Ann B. Davis, an American television legend who played the housekeeper ‘Alice’ on the Brady Bunch.
Sadly she died recently at the age of 88. ‘Alice’s’ death was as a result of a fall in her home.
When you fall, the consequences are enormous emotionally, physically and economically.
And it’s a vicious circle. First you fall and fracture a wrist, or even worse, your hip. Once you heal you become hesitant. You don’t want to fall again so you start reducing your activity. You move around less and you don’t go out as much.
Sadly, you are making things worse.
The more we avoid simple day-to-day activities such as walking, doing housework or shopping, the more our muscles atrophy. Muscle atrophy is a serious health concern but it is a lifestyle choice we have control over. We can do something to prevent it.
When it Comes to Fall Prevention, An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, treatment of injuries due to falls is the most expensive health care cost in the US. The financial toll is expected to increase as the population ages and could reach $54.9 Billion by 2020.
- Seniors have a 1 in 3 chance of experiencing a fall each year.
- Of those who fall, 20% – 30 % will suffer moderate to severe injuries, making it hard for them to continue to live independently.
- Initiatives that can reduce hospitalizations due to falls by 20% could lead to 7,500 fewer hospital stays.
Stay Active and Physically Strong to Prevent Falling
Physical activity is one of the most important things baby boomers and seniors can do to maintain their physical and mental health and quality of life.
Inactivity leads to decline in bone strength, muscle strength, heart / lung fitness and flexibility. Inactivity increases the risk of falls.
In addition, a person’s fear of falling leads to a loss of confidence. This chain reaction can decrease the quality of your life and further increase your risk of falling.
Based upon a review of over 100 studies with over 55,000 total subjects on the topic of falls in older adults it was found that exercise programs that focused on at least two of the following four – building strength, balance, flexibility, or endurance – were the best ways to prevent future falls in older adults.
Ask your health care provider for simple exercises you can do to ensure you are continually building strength, balance, flexibility and endurance. Do some exercises when your family or health aide visits. Do exercises together with a neighbour. Go to the local recreation centre or senior’s centre and find out what activities you might like to get involved in or join.
As the old saying goes, it is much better to avoid problems in the first place, than to fix them after the fact. And it’s cheaper!
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘accident’ as “an unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance.” Obviously many accidents can be avoided with a little knowledge and planning.
Fall Prevention Strategies
In addition to exercise here are some strategies you can incorporate around your home to reduce the risk of falling.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to assess your medications regularly. Side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness can increase accidents.
- Eat a healthy diet, including calcium rich foods to promote strong bones.
- Remove scatter rugs and mats. Even if they have a non-skid backing, they can still contribute to a fall and can be a hazard with a walker.
- Keep the traffic areas in your home free from telephone, computer and electrical cords.
- Avoid using step ladders to reach articles that are placed high in cupboards – wait for someone to help you get the item.
- Ask your health care provider to arrange a visit from an Occupational Therapist to see what simple changes you can make in your home to stay safe.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom and a fold down shower seat.
- Consider the benefits of wearing a personal medical alarm, designed to alert someone in the event you do need some help. It is much better to get help as soon as possible rather than risk further injury caused by a delay in receiving medical attention.
A fall can have serious consequences and lead to your loss of independence. But that outcome can be preventable if you take some regular action to keep your home safe and maintain your overall strength, endurance, balance and flexibility.
Remember, anyone who exercises regularly has a lower risk of falling. And if they do fall, chances are they will recover more quickly. If you want to stay in your own home and avoid the whole retirement home living situation – or assisted living – then take steps to prevent falling. Aging in place – living safely and comfortably in your own home – is a realistic goal. You can do it!