As you get older the risk of falling gets higher. This is because as we age it is harder to keep our balance. Between 30-40 percent of people over the age of 65 fall each year. This percentage increases to around 50 percent if you are over 80. Most of time a fall will result in some type of injury. This can be anything from a minor skin tear or muscle strain to something more serious such as a hip fracture. For this reason it is important to attempt to prevent falls if at all possible.
There are some things that can increase your risk for falls. These include an acute illness, a change in medicine, or an unfamiliar setting. Some medical conditions will increase your risk for falling. People diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, dementia, weakness, arthritis, poor eyesight, balance issues, dizziness, or who have a history of a stroke are at great risk.
Precautions should be taken at home to prevent a fall. The first step is to make your home a safe place. Small changes can make a big difference. Move furniture out of high traffic areas and avoid electrical cords sitting out on the ground. Avoid using rugs that do not have a good grip on the bottom of them. Occupational therapy can do a home evaluation to make some of these recommendations. Occupational therapy may suggest other medical assistance devices such as grab bars, hand rails, or non-slip bath mats be added to your home to make it safer. Do not walk around in the dark. Staying active can help your balance to prevent falling. Exercising will also keep you healthier and may reduce your risk of an injury if you do experience a fall. Wearing the proper shoes is also important. Wearing shoes is better than walking around barefoot or with socks only. Socks make surfaces more slippery therefore increasing your risk of falling. However, if the shoes you are wearing are high heeled or do not fit your feet properly this can also cause a fall. Sometimes it is helpful to use assistive devices to walk such as a cane or walker. A healthcare provider will normally prescribe one of these devices if it is needed. Physical therapy can actually check these devices and make sure they are the proper height for you and show you the correct way to use them.
It is important to have a plan in place in case of a fall. If you live alone and are at risk of falling it is probably a good idea to get a personal emergency response system. Many times it will be a necklace or bracelet. You push a button on the device and then emergency medical services will be contacted. If you do fall, take a deep breath and relax. Remain on the ground for a little bit. This will help you to get over the shock of falling. If you do not feel comfortable getting up do no attempt to get up on your own because you can injure yourself more. If you are able to get up, do so slowly, and use a nearby heavy piece of furniture to steady yourself if you are able. If you can't get up and have no way of contacting anyone, get into a comfortable position and wait for help to arrive. Accidents can and will happen but it is important to take the steps to minimize them.