What You Can Do to Prevent a Fall
Medications, exercise, environment make a difference
When kids fall down, they can usually get up and return to play quickly. But for older adults, falls can be serious.
Among adults over age 65, falls are a threat to health and independence. They also are common. More than one-third of adults over age 65 fall each year. They account for about 2 million emergency department visits, data collected by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows. About three-quarters of those treated are women.
Stay strong with exercise
- Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program. Doctors can recommend specific exercises for you.
- Consider exercises recommended for older adults. They include tai chi for balance and coordination; walking for balance, ankle strength and endurance; and strength training, which improves muscle endurance and overall strength. Water aerobics is a good choice for people with arthritis because it is gentle on the joints.
- Listen to your body and know your limits. But keep in mind that it takes time to build and regain strength.
Create a safe environment
Have your home checked. Home assessments help determine the safety of your home and identify ways to make it safer. Suggestions may include installing grab bars in the bathtub and making sure rugs are securely fastened. Area Agencies on Aging can provide informationand referrals to local home modification programs.
Talk to your doctor to see if a cane, walker or other device can help you maintain balance. Make sure the device is adjusted for your height.
Ask your doctor or hospital about a personal medical response system. Research shows that people who have fallen are more likely to fall again. Technology offers a good defense against that risk. Personal medical response systems activated by a wristband or pendant alert family or emergency services if you fall. Your doctor or hospital is probably familiar with local response systems in your area.
There's no doubt about it: Falls can be serious. That's why preventing falls before they happen is the wisest course of action.
I'm Dr. Carolyn Clancy and that's my advice on how to navigate the health care system.
Carolyn M. Clancy, a general internist and researcher, is an expert in engaging consumers in their health care. She is the director of the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.