Fall prevention vital for senior safety and independence | News

Fall prevention is important for the safety of seniors and to keep them living independently for as long as possible.

University of Louisville-Owensboro Extension nursing students visited the Senior Community Center of Owensboro-Daviess County on Wednesday to discuss important steps to mitigate fall risks related to the organization of the home and to health and wellness routines of seniors.

Falling, according to Senior Center programs director Tiffanye Corsey, can be detrimental for seniors. One fall, she said, could severely affect an individual, resulting in injury, potential surgeries and loss of independence.

“I used to work in a nursing home for like 14 years, and I’ve seen a lot of people who were independent fall — one fall, and it just messed their life up,” she said. “They ended up being put in a nursing home, having to have physical therapy; it just changed their life, so it’s very important some of the things that they’re talking about to take heed to.”

According to the nursing students, every second of every day, a senior has a fall.

To prevent potential fall-related harm to seniors, fourth-year nursing student Grace Kirkpatrick said it is vital to address causes, including removing hazards in the home, such as clutter and area rugs, as well as speaking with caregivers and primary care providers about balance concerns.

Fall risks, according to Kirkpatrick, can exist as hazards in the home, balance issues or dizziness as a result of medication side-effects, not wearing proper shoes and vision problems, as well as vitamin D deficiencies.

“If you have fallen or feel like there’s a chance of falling, you should really talk to your doctor or your pharmacist,” about prescriptions and over-the-counter medications,” said nursing student Olivia Dickinson. “As you get older, the way medicines break down and metabolize in your body is slowed down, so sometimes if you’re taking it on a daily basis … it can build up within your system and kind of make you feel dizzy, light- headed, unsteady.”

Some important steps to mitigate fall risks, according to nursing student Stephanie Millay, include speaking openly with a primary care provider or caregiver about falls, as well as keeping an updated list of medications to discuss potential side-effects, such as dizziness and fatigue, or the potential need for vitamin D supplements.

Additionally, she said it is important to remain active to increase stamina and strength.

Activities that improve balance and strengthen legs can help prevent falls, she said.

Seniors should also undergo eye exams on an annual basis and replace eyeglasses as needed, as well as continue wearing prescription glasses to ensure they are able to see well and clearly.

Footwear is also important, she said, to ensure seniors are not tripping because of loose-fitting shoes or shoes that can create fall hazards.

One of the most important things as well, said nursing student Destiny Frizzell, is ensuring the home is safe and clear of falling hazards, which might include installation of grab bars in the bathroom near toilets and showers, as well as railings on stairways.

Additionally, she said, pathways in the home should be cleared of furniture, areas rugs and clutter, especially those that are used the most, to prevent tripping, as well as ensuring there is plenty of light throughout the home.

These measures, she said, are important to ensuring seniors remain healthy, preventing fall risks and helping them remain independent for as long as possible.

The Senior Community Center also provides regular exercise classes for seniors to ensure they are staying physically active, according to Corsey, including yoga and chair exercises to help build and maintain strength and balance.

She said the center also hosts free balance tests for seniors on a regular basis.

“Some of the stuff that we have available here, take advantage of it, because we want everyone to stay as independent as long as possible,” she said.

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