Falls are a common concern for many elderly adults and their families, especially during the coronavirus pandemic when many seniors are still sheltering at home alone.
Each year, more than 1-in-4 older Americans fall, making it the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for those age 65 and older. But many falls can be prevented. Here are some different tips that can help prevent them.
Weak leg muscles and poor balance are two of the biggest risk factors that cause seniors to fall. Walking, strength training, and tai chi are all good for improving balance and strength, as are a number of balance exercises your senior loved one can do anytime like standing on one foot for 30 seconds then switching to the other foot and walking heel-to-toe across the room.
For additional balance and leg strengthening exercises, see AgeBold.com.
Review Their Medications
Does your loved one take any medicine, or combination of medicines, that makes them dizzy, sleepy or lightheaded? If so, make a list or gather up all the drugs they take – prescriptions and over-the-counter – and contact their doctor or pharmacist for a drug review and adjustment.
Get a Vision Test
Poor vision can be another contributor to falls, so your senior loved one should get their eyes checked once a year and be sure to update eyeglasses if needed. Also be aware that if they wear bifocal or progressive lenses, those too can cause falls, especially when walking outside or going down steps. These lenses can affect depth perception, so your loved one may want to get a pair of glasses with only their distance prescription for outdoor activities.
If your senior loved one is concerned about a trip to their eye doctor during the pandemic, they can get tested online. Put a call to their eye doctor about this option, or consider some online vision testing sites like Essilor.com or 6over6.com. And to buy eyeglasses online, some popular options include WarbyParker.com and ZenniOptical.com.
Fall-Proof Their Home
There are a number of simple household modifications you can do to make your loved one’s living area safer. Start by helping them arrange or move the furniture so there are clear pathways to walk through and pick up items on the floor that could cause her to trip like newspapers, shoes, clothes, electrical or phone cords.
If they have throw rugs, remove them or use double-sided tape to secure them.
In the bathroom buy some non-skid rugs for the floors and a rubber suction-grip mat or adhesive non-skid tape for the floor of the tub or shower, and have a carpenter install grab bars in and around the tub/shower for support.
Also, make sure the lighting throughout the house is good, purchase some inexpensive plug-in nightlights for the bathrooms and hallways, and if they have stairs, put handrails on both sides.
Choose Safe Footwear
Going barefoot or wearing slippers or socks at home can also cause falls, as can wearing backless shoes, high heels, and shoes with smooth leather soles. The safest option is rubber-sole, low-heel shoes.
Purchase Some Helpful Aids
If your senior loved one needs some additional help getting around, get a cane or walker. Also, to help ensure safety, and provide you some peace of mind, consider getting a medical alert device that comes with a wearable emergency button that would allow them to call for help if they were to fall or need assistance.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.
Jim MillerContributing Writer
Jim Miller is the creator of Savvy Senior, a syndicated information column for older Americans and their families that is published in more than 300 U.S. newspapers and magazines. Jim is also a contributor to NBC’s “Today” show and KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, and is the author of The Savvy Senior, The Ultimate Guide to Health, Family and Finances for Senior Citizens.
Jim is frequently quoted in articles about issues affecting senior citizens and has been featured in numerous national publications, including Time magazine, USA Today and The New York Times. In addition, he has made multiple appearances on CNBC, CNN, Retirement Living Television and national public television. Read more from Jim Miller.