It’s possible to fall at any time of the year but here in Vancouver, December through to February are predictably the worst for falls and associated injuries. Often it is just soft tissue damage but every year in the clinic we will see those unlucky enough to have sustained a hip or shoulder/wrist fracture. Often surgery is required and is followed by a sometimes lengthy round of physiotherapy to enable a return to regular life. Of course anyone can fall but it is more common if balance reactions are diminished or strength is faltering, both conditions which tend to increase with age. Around one in three seniors will experience a fall annually and 5% of those will require hospitalization for their injuries. Data from the Canadian Medical Association suggests that 25% of hip fracture seniors die within 12 months. So definitely better not to fall. Given that around one third of all falls are in the preventable category this is a situation that can be improved.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions to lessen the chances of a fall.
- Install proper lighting throughout your home, particularly around the stairs. Use nightlights in hallways, in a bedroom and the bathroom. Always have a flashlight in a location close to your bed.
- Have at least one handrail (preferably two) on all stairways and steps in your home. Ensure handrails are securely attached and in good repair.
- Check that stairs are in good repair and are slip resistant. Adding a strip along the edge of each step in a contrasting colour can help make them easier to see.
Wear proper footwear. Shoes, boots and slippers should provide good support. Avoid loose slippers or stocking feet.
- Install grab bars in all bathrooms, by the toilet and in the bathtub or shower. It’s a good idea to have two bars in the tub, one on a side wall and one on the back wall. If you need extra support, consider a bath seat or bench so you can have a shower sitting down.
- Use walking aids and other safety devices for extra safety. If you use a cane or a walker, check that it is at the right height and that the rubber tips are not worn. Have your physiotherapist measure you for the appropriate size and if necessary show you how to use it correctly.
- Keep your floor and stairs free of clutter. Avoid using throw mats or scatter rugs that are not securely attached or not slip resistant.
- Review your medications with your doctor every six months. Tell your physician if your medication makes you dizzy or light headed. In particular be careful with mixing prescribed medications with over the counter meds.
By following these few suggestions you will lessen the chance of a serious injury. If you are reading this and are thinking it would benefit someone you know, please feel free to pass it along to them.
Over the next couple of posts I’ll look at the current information available about osteoporosis and provide some healthy living suggestions to help combat this all too prevalent disease.