When it comes to getting older, falling consistently rates as a top fear among seniors. Falling is a real concern for older adults, but worrying about it isn't doing you any favors — when you're afraid of falling, you're actually more likely to fall! Rather than fretting over falling, take action to prevent falls so you age with sure footing.
Reducing Fall Risk at Home
Most senior falls happen at home, so if you want to prevent falls, your house is the place to start. Thankfully, you don't need to overhaul your living arrangements to create a safer home. With these cost-effective updates, you can dramatically shrink your fall risk.
- Remove clutter, power cords, throw rugs, and other tripping hazards around the home. Paths of travel should be wide and clear, without obstacles that could cause stumbles.
- Rearrange furniture to create more open space in the home. If your home feels cramped because of too much furniture, take the opportunity to downsize. Low furniture and furniture with sharp corners should be the first to go.
- Install grab bars in bathrooms and apply non-slip mats on wet surfaces. If possible, replace your bath/shower combo with a walk-in shower or tub.
- Install handrails on both sides of staircases, or better yet, replace stairs with ramps and home elevators or stair lifts.
- Keep your home well-lit, including the exterior. Lighting near entrances and walkways keeps you safe after dark.
- Make sure your path to the bathroom is lit at night. Motion-activated lighting eliminates the need to fumble for switches.
Don't avoid safety modifications due to expense! While you’ll need to hire contractors for some jobs, the amount you'll spend adapting your home is far less than the hospital bill after a fall. If it's your first time hiring a home improvement contractor, read this guide to learn what to expect.
Increasing Senior Strength and Mobility
Changes around the house make life safer for seniors with mobility loss, but they don't address the root cause. If you truly want to stop fearing falls, you need to improve your physical strength.
No matter your age, you can improve strength and stability through exercise. Tai chi is a great example of exercise that builds balance without being too physically demanding. Other options include yoga, strength training targeting the lower body, and exercises that specifically target balance and stability. There's nothing wrong with exercising at home, but if you prefer the safety and camaraderie of group exercise, look into SilverSneakers. Many Medicare Advantage plans, including those provided by Humana, offer Silver Sneakers benefits, which comes with access to thousands of participating fitness centers, including fitness classes.
Other Factors Influencing Fall Risk
Keeping your body strong and your home safe greatly reduce fall risk, but they don't eliminate it. If you're not addressing these fall risk factors, you could still experience a life-changing fall.
- Vision loss: If you can't see where you're going, it's hard to avoid a fall. Stay on top of routine eye care, including glaucoma screenings, and replace glasses regularly to ensure an accurate prescription.
- Medications: Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications increase fall risk. These include medications that affect your mental state and medications that affect blood pressure and blood sugar. Even if a medication doesn't directly influence your fall risk, it could interact with other medications to impair balance or coordination. If you're feeling unsteady after a medication change, address it with your doctor.
- Alcohol: It's no surprise that drinking affects coordination, but what many seniors don't realize is that older adults are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. That's especially true if alcohol interacts with your medications. Talk to your doctor to learn which medications you can't mix with alcohol and avoid drinking to the point of intoxication. Kaiser Permanente recommends no more than seven drinks per week and three drinks in a single day.
Staying home and avoiding physical activity is no solution for your fear of falling. While a sedentary lifestyle might help you avoid falls in the short-term, over time it reduces your physical fitness so you're more likely to suffer a fall. If you really want to stay upright and avoid injury, proactive fall prevention is the place to start.
Image via Pexels