By Kathleen Anderson
Ordinarily, I am not one to indulge in doom and gloom. Thankfully the COVID pandemic has receded, masks are now, for the most part, optional, and the flu season has abated.
Some things, however, need to be discussed more than once, and today we will cover one of the biggest problems seniors still face: Falls.
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths for seniors 65 and older in our nation today.
Statistics from Providence Health & Services show the following:
- One in every three Americans aged 65+ falls every year.
- And older adult is treated in the emergency room every 15 seconds for injuries caused by falling.
- Every 29 minutes an older adult dies, following a fall.
- Most falls occur at home.
- 2 percent of falls lead to a hip fracture
- 36 percent of adults 65+ who have suffered a hip fracture will die within one year.
- On average, two older adults die in Washington every day as a result of a fall.
If the fall leads to surgery, you face the possibility of residual effects from the anesthesia.
Identifying the problem:
Not all hazards are obvious. We all know we are not supposed to climb ladders. However, not long ago one of my pockets caught on a doorknob and swung me around so fast I banged into the wall and almost went down.
Pets can be another danger. We love them dearly, but especially if they are small or like to wrap themselves around your ankles, they can take you down in a heartbeat.
New prescriptions added to your routine can cause dizziness and vision problems can make reading the labels hard if not impossible.
Vision changes can make it difficult to read the fine print, judge distance and identify objects clearly. Yearly eye exams are very important!
The Good News:
Most Falls Can Be Prevented:
Number one on this list is to talk to your healthcare practitioner and report any new problems you have observed – like dizziness, vision change or imbalance difficulties.
Your provider might recommend strength and balance exercises – not a bad thing for all of us to consider. There are shows on PBS that feature chair exercises. Senior Services for South Sound offers various, sometimes Tai Chi and yoga. You might want to consider a gym membership or at-home exercise machines.
Perhaps, most importantly of all is making your home hazard-free. Here are some recommendations, also from Providence:
- Keep stairways and walkways well lit.
- Use at least 60-to-70-watt equivalent light bulbs in all rooms. In today’s LED bulbs, look for 11- or 12-watts each.
- Make sure lamp and light switches are easy to reach
- Arrange furniture so you have plenty of room to walk around without obstacles in your path.
- Ensure all steps and stairways have handrails on both sides and keep stairs free of clutter.
- Add visual aids like brightly colored/glow tape on the edge of steps.
- Keep a phone and a light/ flashlight by your bed.
- Install a nightlight in your bedroom and bathroom.
- Install grab bars on the wall inside the tub and shower
- Place a non-skid rug or mat inside the shower and use a chair and handheld showerhead.
- Remove all throw rugs and secure loose carpet
- Don’t use extension cords.
- Before you get up in the morning or at night sit on the side of your bed for a few minutes to avoid dizziness when you stand up.
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to ask for help – it is ok – and might save your life.
Kathleen Anderson writes this column each week from her home in Olympia. Contact her at kathleen@theJOLTnews.com or post your comment below.