Column: Risk factors and prevention tips for falls

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Commentary by Patrick Broccolo

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water? You don’t want to wake anyone, and it’s freezing outside of your covers, so you move quickly to the faucet. As you make your way into the bathroom, you struggle to find the light switch in the dark. As you make your next step, your foot catches the edge of the floor mat on the ground, you lose your balance and fall …

Broccolo

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, each year millions of people, “those 65 and older fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people fall each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.” There are many risk factors that contribute to falls, but the good news is there are ways to lower your risk.

The following are three common risk factors we have seen over the years at Senior1Care, along with some prevention tips we have found helpful for families:

• Use of medications that reduce mental alertness, worsen balance and gait, and cause changes in blood pressure. Prevention tips: Talk with your physician or pharmacist about the common side effects and the need for continued medication(s). Also, maintain an updated list of personal medications, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements.

• Lack of physical activity leads to poor muscle tone, decreased strength, loss of bone mass and flexibility. Prevention tips: Engage regularly in activities designed to increase/maintain muscle and bone strength and to improve balance and flexibility. Wear proper fitting, supportive shoes with low heels or rubber soles.

• Environmental hazards in the home. The most common hazard for falls is tripping over objects on the floor, like loose throw rugs. Other factors include poor lighting, lack of or poorly located/mounted grab bars and unsteady furniture. Prevention Tips: Walk through your home and consider nonskid mats/carpets on slick floor surfaces, stable grab bars for support and adequate night lighting, particularly around stairwells, walkways and bathrooms. Instead of furniture, consider using stable assistive devices. 

Falls do happen to the best of us, and it is important to note that not all falls can be prevented 100 percent of the time. Being aware of some of these risk factors can help keep occurrences less frequent and reduce an unnecessary hospital stay.

Patrick Broccolo, CNA, is co-owner of Senior1Care, which provides trained, in-home caregivers who assist with dementia care, homemaker and companion services throughout Hamilton and Boone counties. Visit Senior1Care.com for more information.


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