How To Prevent Falling
Falling is a reality of life when one gets older and being proactive about preventing falls can go a long way to keeping you alive, active, healthy and strong, can add enjoyable years to your life and most importantly, can keep you independent.
The seriousness of falling impacted me personally when, in the space of a few weeks, I had my mother-in-law fall backwards down an escalator and both my mother and father fall in separate incidents. Luckily they all only suffered minor injuries – a black eye, facial cuts, a sprained wrist and a bruised head and shoulder. The worst damage that was done was to their loss of confidence and to how it impacted and restricted their lives and their independence.
These three separate incidents set me on a mission to discover how to prevent falling and to ensure that my parents and those of many others remain safe and fall-free from hereon forward.
As it turns out, this is a general trend and the statistics are not very encouraging:
- A third of older persons fall every year and more than half of them more than once.
- Because of underlying conditions such as osteoporosis, a fall can result in hip or leg fractures, head injuries or even death.
- Accidents are the 5th most common cause of death among the elderly.
What is scary about these statistics is that there is a lot that can be done to prevent this; all that is required is a willingness to do something about out it and an open mind.
How To Prevent A Fall
There are two approaches that have to be taken simultaneously if you are thinking about preventing falls. The first is preventative measures and the second is physical interventions.
Let us first have a look at the preventative measures.
1. Visit Your Physician
A few major causes of falling can be attributed to a person’s physical health or to the medication they are taking.
Check Your Medication
Consult your physician to review your medication especially any psychotropic medication for any potential causes of falling. Your physician should also review if you have any medical condition that could cause falling.
This may sound obvious but often the most obvious causes are overlooked and a fall could have easily been prevented by a simple check up.
Check Your Blood Pressure
Both low and high blood pressure could be a cause of falls. Blood pressure irregularities may cause dizziness, blurry vision and even blackouts. This was the main cause for both my mother and mother-in-laws falls. Have your physician check and then treat your condition appropriately.
2. Review Your Home And Yard Areas For Danger
Check your home for areas where you could be vulnerable to falls. You should check areas such as baths, stairs and slippery floors. Install non-slip tiles on all slippery surfaces and rails to assist you in the bath, shower or stairs.
Tidy up your home so you don’t bump or trip over things and rearrange the furniture to facilitate easy movement through your home, especially in the areas and directions that you frequently move in.
In your yard, driveway or garden look for stones or other things sticking out that you can fix or else find a way to avoid tripping over these obstacles.
3. Check Your Eyes
Another obvious statement but most people suffer from loss of vision as they get older. Macular Degeneration is also common in older people and a big cause of accidents and falls. My father’s fall was caused because of this as he has lost all peripheral vision in his eyes as well as depth perception which caused him to misstep and fall.
Macular Degeneration is permanent and mostly irreversible, however great progress has been made in this field and various treatments such as Avastin injections in the eye are now prescribed to reduce the damage.
Also make sure that you get your eyes checked regularly and that you change your prescription glasses as often as is necessary.
4. Change Your Shoes
The type of shoes that you wear can be another cause of falling. Ensure that your shoes are flat and comfortable and that they give you good traction when stepping. Trainers or a similar type of shoe should suffice.
You can prevent most falls with simple strategies like these.
Lifestyle Changes That Will Prevent Falling
The following points are examples of physical interventions and lifestyle changes that will go a long way to not only prevent falls but also to improve the quality of your life in other ways.
1. Be Active
If you have fallen before, there is a tendency to reduce your mobility and become even more careful. In actual fact what you should be doing is the exact opposite – you should move more not less.
Exercises that develop leg and hip strength, agility and balance are great for preventing falls and can be learned, and benefited from, at any age.
2. Weight Training
As odd as this may sound, weight training is great for people of any age and will be effective regardless of your previous experience and current physical condition. Weight training will develop better balance and agility, strengthen muscles and bones and add another 10 energetic years to your life.
It doesn’t matter what age you are or how strong you think you have to be. Edith Odoms was 90 years old and had already suffered a stroke and a broken hip when her children showed her the Body-For-Life Challenge, a twelve week weight training program to transform your body.
Edith competed in and completed the full 12 week challenge and five years later was walking, going to the gym five times per week and taking martial arts classes.
She said that her next goal was to make 100 and then she will review her goals again.
Weight Training - One Of The Best Ways To Treat Osteoporosis
One of the main reasons why the elderly hurt themselves in a fall is due to osteoporosis. An added benefit of weight training is its positive effect on osteoporosis.
The weight bearing exercises strengthen and thicken your bones and will keep you standing and walking up straight and put a bounce in your step.
3. Tai Chi
The practice of the gentle Chinese martial art of Tai Chi Chuan has been proven to reduce falls by up to 47%. It is very gentle and easy on the body as it consists of very slow and gentle movements. It restores health and energy and increases your leg strength, balance and agility.
4. Just Keep Moving
The key here is to keep moving. Certainly, weight training and Tai Chi are some of the best things that you can do to strengthen yourself so you will know how to prevent a fall, but as long as you move, anything will be good for you.
You might prefer ballroom dancing, yoga or swimming. Anything is better than nothing and as long as there is a progressive increase in your strength and agility it will be good for you and will ensure that you know how to prevent falling.
5. Optimism, The Final Key
When a child falls they assume it is natural. Yet when we grow up, we start to admonish ourselves every time we fall. When we get along in years, because of the dangers associated with falling, we tend to beat ourselves up even more if we fall.
Optimism is therefore your final key to keeping yourself healthy and strong. Even if you fall, accept that is just a part of life.
A Japanese proverb says “fall down seven, get up eight”.
Develop the ability to get up, dust yourself off and go about your life and if you do get hurt, endeavour to recover and get even stronger.
Don’t Let The Fear Of Falling Slow You Down
It’s never too late or too early to improve how you stand, walk and move. In doing this you will also improve your health, your strength and your optimism. Knowing how to prevent falling is the first step in maintaining your independence; and don’t let anyone tell you you’re too old...
Have a look at Ernestine Shepherd in the video below who took up competitive bodybuilding at age 58 and know that you can do anything at any age.