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Decreasing Senior Falls

SeniorsThe risk of falling increases as people age, and falls are a considerable cause of injury in seniors 65 and over.  The reasons vary but sometimes include lack of strength, demineralization of bones (osteopenia and osteoporosis), muscle weakness, loss of flexibility, imbalance because of medications, and vision impairment.  Women are at greater risk than men, and white women tend to experience more broken bones than black women.

So what can be done?  The recommendations below touch upon some possible suggestions.

  • Get enough calcium.  Women who have gone through menopause typically need between 1,200 to 1,500 mg of calcium to help their bones stay strong.  This mineral is found in some foods, and good sources are fish, soybeans, milk, broccoli, yogurt, almonds, tofu, and cheese.  It is important to mention that some people may need to supplement their intake to ensure they are getting the proper amount.
  • Don’t forget Vitamin D.  Vitamin D aids the absorption of calcium, so it is also important in the diet.  Natural vitamin D is found in the sun, liver, fish, and egg yolks.  The recommended daily amount for seniors is generally between 400-600 IU.  Like calcium, additional vitamin D may be needed.  NOTE:  Be sure to ask your doctor if calcium and vitamin D supplements are right for you.
  • Exercise.  Participating in activity enhances muscle strength and improves coordination.  Walking (which improves leg strength), yoga or Pilates (which concentrate on stretching, balance, and flexibility), weights (which build muscle), and swimming (which works multiple muscle groups), are good choices.    NOTE: Do not begin an exercise program without the consent of your doctor.
  • Clean the clutter and/or repair the cracks.  Sometimes seniors fall because objects hinder their path.  It is very important to maintain a clear passageway in the home.  For example, if a chair, sofa, or other furniture piece tends to jut out, reposition it.  If there are unnecessary items on the floor, remove them. On the outdoors, make sure to fix cracks on the walkway and keep paths free from objects like shovels, planting tools, and bicycles.
  • Install railings and/or handle bars (where needed).  Some individuals require extra support for balance, particularly in certain rooms (e.g., the bathroom).  Consider installing railings or grab bars to assist with steadiness.  An occupational therapist might be the perfect person to assess which areas would be best for you.

Some final thoughts?  Make sure your eyeglass prescription is the right one, and adequately address eye diseases.  Impaired vision could lead to unsteady footing.

Falling is a concern for everyone.  However, as we age, the chances of falling tend to increase.  If we implement a few well-planned preventative measures now, then hopefully we can ward off falling mishaps in the future.