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  • Cameron Oglesby

What’s your risk of falling?

Updated: May 28, 2023

Last week, I wrote about the growing number of older adults who die from fall-related injuries. Statistics show that every 11 seconds, an older adult has to go to an emergency department for a fall-related injury. Though those statistics are scary, you’re an individual, not a statistic. And while averages can be useful, if you had your head in the freezer and your feet in the over, on the average you’d be at a comfortable temperature.

That’s why these questions, from the National Council on Aging, can help you assess your risks instead of the averages:

· Have you fallen in the past year? People who’ve fallen once are more likely to fall again.

· Do you sometimes feel unsteady when you walk? Do you use, or have you been advised to use, a cane or walker to get around safely? When you’re at home, do you steady yourself by holding onto furniture? These are all signs of poor balance, which can lead to falls.

· Do you need to push with your hands to stand up from a chair? Or have some trouble stepping up to curbs? Both are signs of leg weakness, and leg weakness can lead to falls.

· Do you worry about falling? That kind of worry can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

· Have you lost some feeling in your feet? Even intermittent numbness can make you stumble, lose your balance, and fall.

· Do you have to rush to the toilet? Especially at night, rushing to the bathroom can make you lose your balance.

· Do your meds sometimes make you feel light-headed or unusually tired? Side effects from both prescription and OTC medications, or interactions between them, can affect your sense of balance.

· Do you take medicine to help you sleep? It can cause drowsiness, sometimes for hours, after you wake up, and this can affect your sense of balance.

· Do you often feel sad or depressed, or take medicine to improve your mood? Symptoms of depression, like not feeling well or feeling slowed down, are linked to falls. And there’s also the possibility of side effects.

If your answers to those questions show your risks are high, here are seven things you can do to help lower them:

· Ask yourself these questions again every six months to see if your risks have changed.

· Find a good balance and exercise program. Better balance and stronger legs can help keep you from falling.

· Don’t keep it a secret from your health care provider(s). They can’t help you if you keep your history a secret from them.

· Review your prescription and OTC meds regularly to make sure side effects or drug interactions aren’t making you more likely to fall.

· Check your vision and hearing and update your glasses every year. There’s less risk of falls when you can see where you're going and when ear-canal conditions don’t mess up your sense of balance.

· Make sure your home’s safe with increased lighting, grab bars where they’re needed, and tripping hazards gone.

· Contact us for a thorough three-part needs assessment involving you and your family and covering everything from your health, cognitive and psychosocial needs to your schedule, hobbies, interests, activities and social life.

Each of our custom-designed holistic coordinated senior care management plans is tailored to our client’s specific needs. When those needs include fall prevention, for example, we go beyond one-size-fits-all senior care to:

· Help you make your home safer, with grab bars in bathrooms, handrails on both sides of staircases, enough lighting to see where you’re going, and removing small rugs and other objects that could turn your home into an obstacle course.

· If needed, have an occupational therapist safety-check your home and surroundings and the way you navigate them.

· Monitor your health weekly, to discover any changes.

· Accompany you to doctor visits, to make sure your doctors know about any health changes our weekly monitoring discovered, to make sure they all have your up-to-date health information, and to have them cross-check all of your prescription and OTC meds for side effects or interactions.

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