Two types of senior citizens are most susceptible to falls: those who are very active and, for instance, trip on an uneven sidewalk, and those who have lost their strength and balance reactions due to physical inactivity.
“Basically, if you don’t use it, you lose it,” says Dale Avers, a doctor of physical therapy and an associate professor in Upstate’s College of Health Related Professions.
Here is her best advice for preventing falls:
* Know your medications. Taking four or more increases fall risk due to potential side effects and interactions.
* Any older adult should be able to stand on one foot for 10 seconds. If your loved one struggles with this, you know balance is an area that needs improvement.
You can seek physical therapy or participate in an exercise such as tai chi. Taking long steps during your walk is good, too, Avers says. “Anything is better than nothing.”
* Keep ankles as mobile as possible since ankles are the first line of defense when a person loses their balance and begins to fall.
Here are some daily flexibility exercises:
Lift your leg and make circles with your ankle. Move the ankle up and down. Draw the alphabet with your foot. Tap your toes and aim for more than 35 times in 10 seconds
Here is a daily strengthening exercise:
In a standing position, lift your bodyweight on your toes. This will build your calf muscles. Start with both legs, holding a chair or the wall for balance, but ideally you will work up to one leg, 25 lifts at a time.
* Some falls happen when a person stands up too quickly, their blood pressure drops, they get dizzy and fall. Avoid these falls by giving your loved one time to get their equilibrium when they stand before walking.
* Household modifications such as removing throw rugs do not prevent falls as much as we might expect. However, dim lights and pets that get underfoot can present problems.
* Be aware that many falls happen in the bathroom. Someone may stumble because it’s dark in the middle of the night, or because they’re rushing to the toilet.
* Make sure your loved one can get up off the floor by himself or herself if they were to fall. “There is nothing more humbling than having to call people to help you get up,” Avers says. “A lot of people are afraid of falling because they can’t get up off the floor.”
She suggests practicing pulling yourself up, even if you have to crawl to a chair for help, to build confidence and ease fear.