Falls can be dangerous, particularly for people over the age of 60. South Dakota’s Department of Health notes that falls are the leading cause of accidental death among its older population, surpassing automobile accidents and medicinal poisoning. However, falls are preventable, and certain measures can minimize one’s risk.
Level the Floor
Even a drop of one to two inches can disturb the balance, especially with seniors. Weaker musculature and joints, coupled with slower reaction times, can make small changes in balance and momentum lead to catastrophic falls. A level floor will minimize the chances of losing one’s balance. If steps or slopes can’t be eliminated, a few handrails or supports will make them safer. Of course, a clear floor is essential. Get rid of toys, ornaments, rugs, and anything that can slip from underneath or obstruct commonly used paths.
Remodel the Bathroom
Four in five accidents in the home happen in the bathroom. Wet slippery tiles can be dangerous, and seniors tend to use the bathroom more often than they did in their youth. Most accidents happen during the short trip from the door to the toilet. A few handrails or supports towards the destination should prevent accidental slips.
Sitting down and standing up can be difficult for seniors. They put immense strain on the knees, and changing position or height can cause sudden vertigo. Supports near or around the toilet can make bathroom trips easier and safer. Taking a shower or using the tub can be difficult and dangerous. Walk-in tubs can reduce the risk by allowing seniors to bathe in a sitting position with both feet planted on the ground.
Use a Pill Dispenser
Many falls occur due to over-medication, particularly for seniors with mild cases of Alzheimer’s. Some forget whether they’ve taken their medication, leading to a couple of more pills and ensuing dizziness. A pill dispenser controls the number of pills per day, ensuring the proper dosage and no mistakes that can addle the mind.
Check Your Vision
Poor vision can limit mobility, cause vertigo, and reduce the chances of avoiding obstacles. In South Dakota, 12-15 percent of seniors experience some vision loss, most of which can be treated or corrected. Limited vision can further reduce reaction times by not seeing obstacles until it’s too late. It can also misjudge distance or depth, leading to over-corrections and wrong adjustments. Most seniors can fix their problems with just a pair of glasses. A trip to the optometrist doesn’t cost much, and prescription glasses go for less than $200.
Don’t Walk in the Dark
Clear vision won’t do any good in the dark. Walking in the dark can be dangerous as unseen obstacles get in the way, and the lack of vision makes one’s steps unsure. Walking from a dark room to a lighted one and vice versa can also be disruptive as changes in lighting can cause vertigo and momentary confusion. While motion-detecting systems do eliminate the need for fumbling for switches, they still cause abrupt changes in lighting. It is better to keep the lights on during nighttime or set the lights on a timer that automatically turns them on when the sun goes down.
Seniors experience a loss of musculature and bone density. However, exercise can minimize or even reverse their occurrence. 2.5 hours or moderate exercise a week is sufficient to maintain or strengthen muscles and bones. Walking is popular among seniors. However, it can only maintain (not increase) muscle mass and bone density.
Strength training and resistance training are essential in increasing muscle mass and bone density, and as little as 20 minutes of exercise a day can have significant results. Lifting weights is effective in targeting particular problem areas. Swimming is also an effective exercise as water provides adequate resistance to stimulate muscle and bone development.
Visit a Chiropractor
Neck pain is one of the leading causes of dizziness and associated vertigo among seniors. Close to 20 percent of seniors report having neck pains and the dizziness that comes with it. A trip to a licensed chiropractor, who can deal with injuries such as from work or auto accident, can reduce or eliminate neck pain as well as strengthen the neck muscles and joints.
Neck treatments can also reduce the chances of getting whiplash and neck injuries during accidents, which are especially common in Rapid City due to Mount Rushmore’s 2 million tourists per year.
Close to 40 percent of seniors suffer from falls each year; most suffer injuries, lose their mobility, or even die. However, falls are preventable, and certain measures can reduce or even eliminate their occurrence.