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Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.
Finding Meaning Through the Many Windows of Wellness

Older Americans Month: Preventing Falls to Enhance Wellbeing

Carrie Steckl, Ph.D. Updated: May 13th 2014

In my last post, I explained why Older Americans Month is important. In a nutshell, our nation's elders have given us so much and have so much more to contribute in their later years - it makes sense for us to show our gratitude and to help them learn how to stay well both physically and emotionally.

trip hazard signOne way to do that is to reduce the risk of falls. Falls claim the lives of over 21,000 older adults and send over 2 million older people to the emergency room each year. Because the older population is growing, falls will only become more prevalent unless we take steps to reduce fall risk among our elders.

Connecting falls to multidimensional wellness might sound like a stretch, but consider this: When an older person falls, injury is highly probable. Physical wellness is impacted through the injury, surgery or other medical treatment, and rehabilitation. If the person has to stay in a hospital or rehabilitation facility for any length of time, being uprooted from one's home takes an emotional toll as well as impacts social connections. Depression, isolation, and anxiety about the possibility of future injury are common reactions to a fall. And so, falls affect more than just the bones they bruise or break.

The Administration for Community Living offers several tips for recognizing and reducing fall risk:

  • Previous falls predict future falls. If an older person has fallen within the last year, his or her chances of falling again dramatically increase. Older adults can assess their risk of falling by completing the questionnaire in a brochure called Stay Independent. The brochure provides suggestions for risk reduction and advises when to seek an evaluation by a health care professional. Older adults also can participate in programs such as Stepping On to learn more about fall risk and how to reduce their risk of falling.
  • Lack of exercise can increase fall risk. When we don't exercise, our leg muscles weaken and our balance suffers. Fortunately, a variety of community programs offer opportunities for elders to participate in Tai Chi, yoga, water aerobics, and dancing as fun ways to improve body strength and balance.
  • Medications can make falls more likely. Some medications - either by themselves or in combination - can cause older people to become dizzy or drowsy, increasing the risk of falls. To reduce this risk, a doctor or pharmacist should review the person's list of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications to identify potential problems.
  • Vision problems create fall risks. Poor vision, glasses that don't fit well, or outdated prescriptions can all prevent an older person from seeing steps, curbs, or other changes in the environment that can easily result in trips and falls. Older people should have their eyes checked annually to make sure they are wearing the proper prescription.
  • Hazards around the home can be dangerous. We often don't realize how many fall hazards lurk within our homes, such as tripping hazards, clutter, and poor lighting. Area Agencies on Aging can perform home safety assessments and recommend ways to reduce fall risks, such as adding grab bars to bathrooms and removing items from walkways.

If you are an older adult or care about an older family member or friend, invest the time in taking steps to reduce the risk of falls. By saving yourself or someone else from falling, you could be preserving wellbeing as well as precious life.

Source:

Administration for Community Living. (2014). Activity Guide for Older Americans Month 2014. http://www.acl.gov/NewsRoom/Observances/oam/2014/docs/OAM-ActivityGuide-2014.pdf

 

Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.

Its a true blessing to have you visit my blog on mental health and wellness. I also write blogs on faith and caregiving in addition to teaching part-time for Columbia College of Missouri. For more information about my background and writing, visit my webpage at carriesteckl.com.

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