September was Falls Prevention Month, and we’re taking the opportunity to highlight this urgent issue and provide tips for reducing the risk of injury.
Much is at stake: More than one out of four older adults ages 65 and older fall each year, with one in five falls causing a serious injury like a broken hip or head injury. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injury for older Americans.
Falls occur for any number of reasons. This includes lower body weakness, use of medicines that affect balance, vision problems, and home hazards like cords or clutter.
Reducing the Risks
The right preventative steps can reduce the risk of a fall from happening.
To learn more, I attended a “Falls Free Friday” Zoom Event where Christian Ross, Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Talks, and Amanda Jackson Swinburne, Senior Home Care Liaison of The Key, spoke about the importance of falls prevention.
They offered concrete steps that older adults and their caregivers should take to reduce the risk of a fall:
- Getting eyes and feet checked by medical professionals;
- Removing throw rugs than can be tripping hazards;
- Adding lighting to brighten the home and improve visibility;
- Installing grab bars and handrails in places like the bathroom;
- Getting active, to keep muscles strong.
Christian and Amanda also talked about the importance of social connection and having loved ones to hold you accountable. Being social can boost a person’s mood and improve their physical and cognitive health – and even reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.
Christian offered a great tip: Make a list of five people you enjoy connecting with along with a list of things you like to do by yourself and with others. Then, make a personal connection schedule. Voila! You’ll soon be filling your calendar with social engagements.
Making Home Modifications
Sometimes, preventing falls requires extensive work. The Atlanta Regional Commission provides grants to organizations like HouseProud Atlanta, which make home modifications to help older adults live more safely and comfortably.
I talked to Willie Head, in Atlanta, whose floor was falling in due to water damage from a leaky bathtub. HouseProud rebuilt the floor, replaced bathroom piping, and provided a new toilet and water heater. The project cost more than Mr. Head could have ever afforded on his fixed retirement income.
I also talked to Annie Green, whose Atlanta home had an uneven floor that presented a huge fall risk. HouseProud repaired damage under the house and leveled the floor, and even provided a new vanity and toilet seat in her bathroom. She’s thrilled with the improvements.
This program can help with making a house safer for falls, by adding grab bars in the bathroom and handrails to the staircase. You could be as thrilled as Mr. Willie or Ms. Annie with your updates. You can also be safer.
Continue to take the steps necessary to prevent falls, including modifying your home, doing balancing exercises, talking to your doctor, and confiding in close friends and family. You can also find events that will help you to age well and be safe at www.georgiahealthmatters.org. When you take these steps, you will be safer and at less risk of falling.