Madison, Wis. — It happens fast. One minute you are going about your daily tasks and suddenly you lose your footing and fall. There are many reasons that people fall. Normal aging causes our muscles to become weaker and our reflexes slower, our eyesight isn’t as good as it was and some prescribed medications can cause dizziness. Regardless of how it happens, falls not only hurt but they can dangerous to us as we age.
While not all falls can be avoided, we can make changes to lessen our risks.
Tips to Help Prevent Falls
Stepping On is a falls prevention program for those 65 years and over who have had a fall in the past year or have a fear of falling.
Take Care of Yourself
Keep your bones strong. Talk to your doctor to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D and calcium.
Have your vision and hearing checked each year or if you notice a change. Trouble seeing and hearing can make it difficult to avoid objects that make you lose your balance.
If you get lightheaded when you stand up quickly, take the time to get up slowly from your bed or chair.
If you are weak or dizzy, don't try to walk around. See your doctor as soon as possible.
You may have a health problem that needs treatment, such as a blood pressure or inner ear problem. Or you may be having a side effect from a medicine that you take.
Drink plenty of water, especially if the weather is hot.
Take extra care if you live alone
If you live alone, think about wearing an alert device that will bring help in case you fall and can't get up. Or carry a cordless or cell phone with you from room to room. Then you can quickly call for help if you need it.
Set up a plan to make contact once a day with a family member or friend. Have one person who knows where you are.
Learn how to get up from a fall. Try this when you have someone with you. If you can get up alone, practice this often enough to feel comfortable. If you can't get up by yourself, talk to your doctor.
Learn ways to keep your balance
Learn a few exercises for strength and balance. Practicing these each day can help you stay active and independent.
Wear low-heeled shoes that fit well and give your feet good support. Use footwear with nonskid soles. Repair or replace worn heels and soles.
If you use a walker or cane, make sure it is fitted to you. If you use a cane, replace the rubber tip when it becomes worn.
If you have pets, keep them in one place at night. Train your pets not to jump or get underfoot. Think about buying a collar with a bell for your pet so you will know when your pet is nearby.
Make your home safer
Remove or fix things you could trip over, such as raised doorway thresholds, throw rugs, or loose carpet.
Keep paths clear of electrical cords and clutter.
Use nonskid floor wax and wipe up spills right away.
Keep your house well lit. Use an overhead light or night-light after dark.
Use sturdy handrails on stairways. Have a light at the top and bottom of all steps.
Store things on lower shelves so you don't have to climb or reach high.
Keep a phone and a flashlight by your bed. Check the flashlight batteries often to make sure they still work.
Stay safe while bathing
Install grab handles and nonskid mats in the tub and shower.
Use a shower chair or bath bench. You can also try using a hand-held shower head.
Use a nonskid mat outside the tub or shower.
Prevent outdoor falls
When outdoors, keep your hands free by using a cross-body shoulder bag, a fanny pack or a backpack.
If you wear bifocal or trifocal glasses, you may have problems as you step off curbs or climb stairs. Ask about getting glasses with a single prescription that you can wear when you walk.
During the winter have a family member or friend sprinkle salt or sand on slippery steps and sidewalks.