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Preventing Falls

Seniors Are More Susceptible To Taking A Fall

In the U.S., falls are the leading cause of injuries in people 65 years old and up. Understandably, accidents and health conditions are the leading culprits. What's really surprising is that most of the falls occur at home, while performing common activities.

What causes the falls? Balance can be affected by medications, alcohol, heart disease, low blood pressure or arthritis. Poor eyesight and hearing, decreased coordination and strength, slower reflexes and other disabilities can be factors. Within the household, worn carpets, newly positioned furniture, clutter on the floor, poor lighting, electric wires, stairs and wet floors can lead to trouble.

Fortunately most falls are minor and result in a quick recovery. But the severity of injury increases with age with the most common injuries being head traumas and fractures to the hip, wrist and spine. Even when there is no physical injury, there can be a dramatic affect on the senior and their family. Fear of future falls can decrease confidence, which can lead to less independence and social life.

Stairways in the home of a senior can be a hazard. Make sure there are sturdy handrails on both sides, the steps are clear, the surface is in good condition and the lighting is bright and even. (Shadows can cause problems.)

Tips For Avoiding Falls

± Avoid clutter on the floors, especially in the normal paths of traffic.

± Don't leave something in a pathway "just for a second". It's usually the wrong second.

± Place electrical and telephone cords out of pathways.

± Carpets should be wall-to-wall and low pile.

± It's best to eliminate throw rugs. Otherwise, attach them to the floor with tacks or carpet tape. The last choice is to make sure they have a non-skid backing.

± Fix loose floorboards.

± Do not wax floors or use non-skid wax.

± Steps should be no taller than 6 inches and all steps should be the same height and depth.

± For those with poor vision, attach a bright colored piece of adhesive tape to first and last steps...and any place there is a variation in the height or depth of a step.

± Avoid the use of stairs when possible. This may mean rearranging the use of rooms or even installing a motorized lift.

± Chairs and sofas should be high enough and firm enough to make it easier to sit or stand.

± Chairs should have high backs and sturdy armrests so they can be used to support sitting and standing.

(Sources: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, A Variety Of Articles & Books)

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