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Avoiding Falls As We Age

Challenges seem to creep up on us, as we age. One change is losing your balance and suddenly finding yourself on the ground. Recently, I had an unexpected fall when I was at a camp in the mountains as I came down a short flight of steps, I think I must have missed a step because I suddenly found myself splat on the ground! I looked around and was pleased to see no one had witnessed this event. Next, I took stock of my extremities and found that nothing was hurt so I gathered myself and got up. I realized that I was stunned and shaky as I stood there reassessing what just happened. I am fortunate to have the strength and ability to rise up by myself. As we age the strength changes in our muscles and bones and falls can be devastating.

Statistics show that one-third of the population over 65 will fall each year. The statistics increase dramatically once a person reaches the age of 85 and above. Why do people fall? There is a long list of reasons. Some major factors are environmental trip hazards such as uneven surfaces or wet surfaces, throw rugs or poor footwear. A rapid change in blood pressure, ear problems causing balance issues, and heart problems are a few physiological reasons a person could suddenly fall. Certain medications can cause you to be light headed or dizzy. Taking medications improperly can lead to trouble. Work with your doctor to change medications to something that do not give you these side effects.

Fortunately, for me, I had the strength to get up on my own. Many people over the age of 65 cannot rise up from the floor on their own. Leg strength is an important part of healthy aging. Exercising regularly builds leg strength and helps the body maintain balance. If you suspect you have muscle weakness and are afraid you might fall, schedule an appointment to see your doctor. He/she can prescribe some physical therapy for you to help you build up your muscles and maintain balance. If you do fall and are unable to get up you could be on the floor indefinitely, especially if nobody regularly checks up on you. At Sierra View Homes, we have pull cords in each Independent Living apartment and Assisted Living bedrooms and the bathrooms to call for assistance when you are in trouble. Some folks have chosen to have an “alert pendant or bracelet” on them so all they need to do is push a button and help is on its way. Some of these folks have made Sierra View Homes the first person to call on their system.

Many times doctors will prescribe a walking aid if they feel you are at risk of falling. There are many types of aides such as various styles of canes, front-wheel walkers, three-wheel walkers and four-wheel walkers. All have their advantages, but they are not without risk. The aid can become a trip hazard. If you are using a walking aid, please pay attention to where your feet are in relation to the walking aid. It is easy to do the exact thing you were trying not to.

I was happy to say the only thing that was hurt in my fall was my pride. I was able to stand up and get on with the events of the day. Many people are not so lucky. If you are over 65 and have had a fall, do not ignore it. It could be a symptom of a treatable condition. Work with your doctor on what may be the cause. He/she may prescribe a strength and balance program to increase your odds of catching yourself if you trip. You should check your medications for possible side effects of dizziness and finally, yet importantly, be sure to wear sturdy shoes that offer good support. We are living longer and it is important to keep the risk of falling to a minimum to have the best quality of life possible.

About the author

Ro Linscheid

Ro Linscheid is the Associate Executive Director and Admissions and Marketing Director for Sierra View Homes Retirement Community. You can contact her at (559) 638-9226 or rlinscheid@sierraview.org.