Q: How can older people avoid falls?
Because of physical changes and health conditions, our kupuna are at increased risk of falling, which can cause serious injuries. Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce your risk.
First, talk with your doctor about your concerns about falling, especially if you've had previous falls or close calls. Go over any medications you might be taking that could have side effects that increase your risk of falling, and talk about alternatives. Finally, get checked out for any health conditions that might be affecting your vision, mobility, or balance.
Stay physically active, or start a low-impact exercise program. Activities like walking or tai chi can improve your muscle tone and balance. If fear of falling is causing you to avoid exercise, you can work with a physical therapist to develop a safe program that's right for you.
Sometimes people trip over objects because they can't see them. Make sure your home is well lit so you can see potential fall hazards, and add night lights around your bedroom, hallway, and bathroom so you can move safely at night.
While checking your home, look for potential obstacles like boxes on the floor, loose electrical cords, slippery rugs, and plant stands. Move obstructions out of high-traffic areas, and repair loose flooring or carpets. Make sure you have a nonslip mat in the shower in the bathroom and get hand grips or a bath seat if you need them.
Finally, consider replacing your rubber slippers or high heels with sturdy, more supportive footwear, and consider using assistive devices to help you get around. For example, a cane or walker can not only keep you safe but can also help you stay active as you get older.
For more tips, sign up for A Matter of Balance, an award-winning fall prevention program offered by Maui Health. Visit mauihealth.org/fallprevention for more information.