Short Steps to Avoiding Slips
Talk with your primary care doctor. Discuss your health conditions and how comfortable you are when you walk. Be honest about any shortness of breath, dizziness, joint pain, or numbness in your feet and legs. Be sure to share your history of falls and where and how you fell or almost fell. In 2010, the American and British geriatrics societies recommended that healthcare providers ask all patients over 65 about previous falls each year. You can help your doctor by preparing a list of your current prescriptions and over-the-counter medications and supplements.
If you have fallen or have experienced gait or balance issues, there are now easy in-office assessments like the Timed Up and Go test. Together, you and your healthcare professional can discuss fall prevention strategies. He or she may also recommend assistive devices or refer you to an occupational therapist.
Talk to Your Ophthalmologist
Go for your eye exam every year and update your lens prescriptions every time. If you have bifocals or progressive lenses, discuss whether to get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities.
Fall-Proof Your Home
Remove cords and other tripping hazards from walkways and secure loose rugs or floorboards. Use nonslip mats in your bathroom and remove low furniture like coffee tables, plant stands and magazine racks from high-traffic areas. Place night lights in bedrooms, hallways, and bathrooms, and everywhere you may walk in the dark. Make well-lit, unobscured paths to light switches and consider installing illuminated switches. Make sure that objects like clothes are always easy to reach so you can avoid obstacles.
Fall-Proof Your Lifestyle
Sometimes ensuring your future well-being means adjusting your habits even if you are still healthy and fully mobile. Don’t walk in dimly lit rooms or climb furniture or stepladders when no one is around. Avoid excessive drinking and make sure that your diet is adequate in calcium and Vitamin D.
Reduce Your Risk From Head to Toe
Not only do high heels compromise your balance, but floppy slippers and even walking in only your socks can cause you to slip or trip. Put on shoes when you first get up in the morning. Make sure that all your footwear fits properly and offers sturdy support and nonskid soles. Consider taking a favorite pair of shoes to a cobbler to alter for you so you can ensure the perfect fit. The right shoes may even reduce joint pain as an added bonus.
Don’t Stop Moving
Remaining physically active not only makes you less likely to fall, but it also improves your chance of catching yourself before a fall. Walking, water aerobics, and tai chi can reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. If your physical condition allows, activities like jogging, dancing, hiking, climbing stairs, and weight training can build bone strength and slow progression of osteoporosis.
As you grow older, it’s important to manage your fear of falling as well as your actual risk. That means assessing your likelihood of falls and consciously mapping out prevention strategies. Particularly if you want to age in place at home, a sound safety and wellness plan are great steps to a long, active future in your home.