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Westminster At Lake Ridge Blog

WLR Blog
Posted: Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Avoiding injury and the emergency room: 7 safety tips to prevent falls in Assisted Living

Falling is the leading cause of injury for older adults. One in four of those aged 65+ falls each year and every 11 seconds an older adult lands in the emergency room because of one. And yet falling doesn’t need to be an unavoidable result of aging. According to the National Council on Aging, many falls can be prevented and their risk decreased.

Beyond the physical impact, falling can also take a psychological toll. Many older people become fearful it will happen to them and will begin staying at home or limiting their activities. Not only can this have a negative effect on their health, it can also contribute to loneliness, isolation and depression. Remaining active on the other hand can help strengthen your range of motion and contribute to both your physical and emotional health. 

Why we fall

Although not inevitable, there are several reasons why people may fall more often as they grow older.

  • It can be the result of losing strength or balance
  • Certain medications can increase the risk
  • Visual impairments can interfere with seeing clearly or being able to differentiate changes in level surfaces
  • Not having a clear walking pathway or having furniture or other obstacles in the way can pose a danger

Falling can also be grouped into two categories. Failure to maneuver an icy sidewalk or tripping over an object is different than if an individual is starting to fall repeatedly but not because of a physical situation. In that case, speak with your doctor to discuss any medical causes or to identify possible heart or neurological issues.

Another reason that falls may become more common with older adults is that we lose the ability to catch ourselves before we land on the ground. As children, we were often able to stop in mid-flight but as time marches on, our reaction time becomes delayed. Studies comparing the reaction times of those in a younger age group to those 65 and older find that older adults are significantly slower to react.

7 preventative steps to take

Although the risk of falling may increase as we get older, it doesn’t mean we are helpless. Reject the attitude that it’s an automatic side effect of aging and there is nothing you can do. There are actions you can take for prevention or lessen their occurrence. By maintaining your physical health and creating the optimal home environment, you can greatly reduce your risk.

Try these steps to help increase your chances of staying safely on your feet:

1. Get educated

Take the time to understand why so many older adults fall, ways it might be prevented and the serious consequences it can have on your health. Don’t limit yourself from activities but also don’t take unnecessary risks, such as standing on a chair being used as a ladder.

2. Remove obstacles where possible

You won’t be able to remove all the tripping hazards in the outside world but take a moment to assess your own living space. Remove any throw rugs and loose cords. Rearrange furniture to create a clear walking path and make sure the lighting is sufficient.

3. Have your eyes examined

Some falls are caused by not being able to see clearly. Schedule regular exams and talk to your doctor if you’ve noticed any changes in vision. Be aware that bi or trifocals can also distort what you see. 

4. Have regular checkups

Make sure you see your medical team regularly and let them know if you’ve fallen or feel that you’re losing balance. Also, review all your prescriptions, including any over-the-counter medications to see if they might be contributing to dizziness or feeling unsteady.

5. Use assistance if needed

If your stability is compromised, use a walker or a cane to help keep you more stable on your feet. You’ll want to have it fitted for your size and height. Otherwise, make sure there is something you can hold onto for balance when walking or a chair is available nearby if you feel the need to sit down.

6. Limit alcohol

Drinking alcohol can have a significant impact on balance, no matter what your age. Limiting the amount you drink can decrease the risk of falling. Be aware of any possible effects of mixing alcohol with prescriptions or other medications you may be taking.

7. Stay physically active

Make sure you have an exercise routine that strengthens your muscles and helps you remain flexible. Take it slow when first standing up to minimize any dizziness but otherwise stay active and keep moving as it will help you increase your balance and remain steady.

Keeping your home safe

One of the big advantages of an Assisted Living community is a safe environment. Your home, as well as the common areas, have all been designed with these issues in mind. As such, you should find good lighting, handrails along stairways and hallways, grab bars in the bathroom and clear walking paths.

However, you’ll still want to take steps to keep your own living space as safe as possible.

Consider these suggestions:

  • Turn on lights. Don’t walk in the dark or in the shadows.
  • Keep your walkway clear of clothes, books, papers or furniture.
  • Don’t use a throw or small area rugs as they pose a tripping hazard.
  • Keep all electrical cords near the walls and away from your walking path.
  • Use night lights in your bedroom and bathroom.
  • Don’t stand on a chair or table instead of a ladder. Better yet, ask for help if you need to reach something high.
  • If you have pets, make sure you know where they are when you’re walking. They can easily get underneath you and cause you to stumble.

Ingleside’s Westminster at Lake Ridge Assisted Living

At Westminster, we have created our community and your private home with safety in mind. You’ll find what you need to stay steady on your feet as much as possible and extra support if you experience balance issues.

We understand the risks of falling and can help you take the necessary steps to minimize injury. We’re also proactive in working together with you to help prevent falls from happening. While it’s true that we do lose muscle as we grow older, we can help you improve your strength and flexibility which can greatly decrease your risk of falling. 

Call (703)794-4631 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.

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