Monday, December 12, 2016

Prepare To Avoid A Fall

By Dr. R. Greg Lusk, DC

As a father of 2 young children, aged 5 and 2, you can imagine that my house is always tidy and perfect.  Wait a second, that's only what it looked like in that magazine I was reading.  Instead, you will more realistically see dinky cars and dolls scattered across the floors and over furniture.  Often it feels like a mine field where I'm tip-toeing around items to avoid suddenly performing the splits after planting my foot on a car that blasts off as if in a drag race.  While I may, at least in my mind, still possess cat-like reflexes, the reality is that I'm getting a year older every year and my athletic prime is behind me.  With that in mind, I'm aware that falling is becoming a more likely possibility.
 
Particularly if you are over the age of 65, falling is common as one in three Canadians in this age group falls annually.  Often a serious injury results such as a wrist or hip fracture and these injuries can create a cascade of other health issues, in addition to a loss of independence.  Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk.
 
Modifying your environment is a place to start, especially your home as that is where most falls occur.  Bathrooms, not surprisingly, pose risk due to wet surfaces and the transfers that occur in and out of the tub or on and off the toilet.  Investing in non-slip mats, grab bars, and a raised toilet seat can go a long way.  In the kitchen, swapping out loose mats for those with non-slip backing is helpful.  It is important to not use chairs or stools as an unstable ladder but instead have a footstool handy.  Better yet, keep everyday items in low cupboards and easily accessible so you don't need to use one at all.  Remember, your agility is likely not what it used to be.
 
The stairs are also a common problem area.  Keep them free of clutter, ensure there is no loose carpeting, and consider installing non-slip strips at the edge of each step.  Hand rails on either side are advisable and having ample lighting is important to increase awareness of any trip hazards.  Be careful when carrying items, such as full laundry baskets, as they reduce your visibility and steal at least one hand away from the handrails.  To make things easier, consider more trips with smaller loads.  It may take a little longer but if you change your mindset, you can become appreciative of the extra exercise.
 
An increased need to use the washroom, particularly at night, is another common reality of getting older.  Therefore, it is important that the path from your bedroom to the bathroom is clear and well lit with nightlights.  Finally, when outside the house, having salt or sand handy for dealing with ice and keeping paths clear of debris is recommended.
 
Taking care of yourself is also very important.  This can include improving your strength and balance with regular exercise, having eye and ear exams every 1-2 years, reviewing medications/supplements with your MD or pharmacist for potential side effects or interactions, eating and drinking regularly to minimize episodes of dizziness and weakness, and wearing good shoes and slippers with non-slip soles.
 
Having a fall doesn't need to be part of your aging experience.  Take action to improve your confidence.  This article is for general information purposes only and is not to be taken as professional medical advice.