Seven Ways to Avoid a Fall

Falls account for nearly a third of all nonfatal injuries in the U.S. And a fall can be life changing. It happens in a flash, with very little – or no – warning. In fact, the author of this article was enjoying a quiet evening at home, playing a water hose game with the dog. Game over and time to go inside and dry off the dog. But – OHHHHHH NOOOOOOOOOOO – the tile floor was wet and kaboom! Broken arm.

The fallout? Hours and dollars spent in emergency and doctor visits. Pain. Awkwardness. Learning to be a lefty. Reliance on others for help. And then physical therapy to get everything working again.

In the big picture of life, I was fortunate. No head injury. No surgery. Life changing? Yes. So, in the spirit of paying forward lessons learned, here are seven ways to be aware of your environment so that you can keep on doing life as usual:
  1. Lighting – Preventing a fall may be as simple as turning on a light, especially around stairs. Lights also illuminate tripping hazards.
  2. Level changes – Even a one- to two-inch elevation can cause trips and falls. Be aware of changes in flooring that may change elevation.
  3. Liquids – Pick up ice that falls on the kitchen floor, watch out for wet bathroom floors after a bath or shower and rain on concrete sidewalks.
  4. Area rugs – Use a rug pad to prevent slipping. For the elderly, best to forgo area rugs altogether to prevent tripping on the edge.
  5. Clutter and toys – Make a sweep through the house each day to remove tripping hazards.
  6. Ladders – A chair is not a ladder! Step stools are an invaluable asset for many situations. Don’t climb a tall ladder alone without someone to hold the base. And do we even need to tell you to not climb on the counter?!
  7. High heels or boots – A small pebble or barely missing a step on a curb or stairs can take you down without warning. If there’s a railing, use it – it could prevent a traumatic event.
Exercise for Fall Prevention Strength and balance/core exercises can make it easier to avoid a fall, as well as recover after a fall. Physical activity is good for the brain as well as the body. So find a workout buddy or class to stay motivated for physical fitness. The National Institute on Aging recommends four types of exercise, which are good for any age:
  1. Endurance – Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and lungs with an increased heart rate. Take a walk or several walk breaks in the day (go faster than a stroll!) try an exercise class or just dance!
  2. Strength – Weights or your own body weight as resistance help make muscles stronger to support your bones and body. Climbing stairs counts as strength and aerobic exercise. If you have access to a pool, water aerobics, using weights in the pool and swimming are good for resistance, too.
  3. Balance – Yoga or Tai Chi help with balance, as does practice standing on one foot.
  4. Flexibility – Stretch to stay limber. You’ll enjoy greater freedom of movement for other types of exercise and common activities. You can even do subtle stretches while standing in lines.
Certain medical conditions, medications or vision issues can increase the opportunity for falling. Talk with your doctor to learn if you need extra precautions, such as hand railings or grab bars.

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