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For a young person, a fall may mean a few bruises and some soreness. But for an older person, a fall can mean a broken bone and a loss of mobility and independence. Several factors can contribute to an older adult’s increased risk for falls and the injuries associated with them. Understanding these risk factors and taking steps to prevent falls can help seniors live happier, more mobile lives.
Physical changes associated with aging can contribute to an increased fall risk, including:
Older adults also may take medications that contribute to dizziness, confusion, or slower reflex responses. This includes medications for high blood pressure, heart disease, and sleeping. Diuretics and muscle relaxants may also increase your risk of falling. You should not discontinue these medications without a doctor’s supervision.
Regular activities to improve balance and enhance muscle tone can help reduce fall risks. These exercises don’t have to be strenuous to be effective. Try these balance exercises on an every-other-day basis to reduce fall risks:
You also can ask your doctor if you could begin an exercise program, such as a weight-training or aerobics. Many healthcare facilities and community centers offer senior-specific exercise programs.
Eating a healthy diet can also help you maintain healthy bones that are less likely to break. Make sure to eat enough calcium and vitamin D each day. Excellent sources of calcium include:
As an added bonus, a balanced diet gives you energy so not only will you have stronger bones, you’ll feel better too.
Most falls occur in the home when a person is performing everyday tasks, such as going to the bathroom. Keeping your home and the areas you commonly walk free of obstructions can go a long way in preventing falls. Conduct a thorough check of your home to ensure there are no potential risks. Check the following:
It’s also a good idea to wear sturdy shoes with non-skid soles that fit you well while walking in your home to reduce the likelihood of slips and falls.
Ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist if you need extra help. These medical specialists can evaluate your home to help identify ways to make your space more fall-proof.
Written by: Rachel Nall, RN, BSN
Medically reviewed on: Feb 26, 2015: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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