20 February 2017

To Break One’s Fall

Currently in the middle of winter, we are regularly alerted to the risk of falling outdoors caused by ice and snow. But did you know that falls inside the home are much more frequent and dangerous? Every year, as many as 12,000 deaths amongst the elderly are due to falls, with one in three persons being over the age of 65.

Beyond just the stress of falling, this often results in both psychological and physical trauma. It also increases the chances by 20 times that a future fall will provoke a more severe injury.

Whether it’s slipping in the shower or merely losing one’s balance, it can happen quickly and without warning.
Fortunately solutions do exist!

1. Determine your fall potential

The National Institute of Health has linked a number of risk factors to one’s falling potential:

  • Medication – certain medications can cause side effects, such as dizziness
  • Balance – your gait, or how you walk, or simply having poor balance can heighten your risk
  • Blood pressure – a condition called postural hypotension causes one’s blood pressure to drop excessively after lying down or sitting
  • Muscle weakness/reflexes – weak muscles, particularly in the legs, is one of the most important risk factors; similarly, slower reflexes may inhibit the time it takes for you to react and catch your balance if you begin to fall
  • Sensory problems – if you are unable to sense your environment, you may not make the best choices of where to step, whether caused by poor eyesight or numbness in the feet
  • Unsafe footwear – backless shoes, high heels, poor traction all increase one’s risk for slipping

While some of these factors may not be preventable, understanding that you may be at a heightened risk is. Also, taking extra care when doing ordinary tasks, such as cleaning or walking up the stairs, is even more important since they are often taken for granted.

2. Don’t be afraid to talk about the risks

How can you mention the risk of falls without getting anxious? It’s okay to warn oneself of the potential dangers without becoming frightened or alarmed that it is an inevitable plight. Advancing in age is not synonymous with helplessness. Rather, quite the contrary! It has been demonstrated that there is a strong link between physical activity, autonomy and moral well-being. That is why it is essential to remain open-minded on the subject and its potentiality rather than making it taboo. Especially since there are so many solutions! For example, a stairlift eliminates the daily barrier that a staircase may become in a multiple floor home. It is also keeping an open mind that a stairlift is not a crutch, but rather is there to make everyday life easier and allow you to maintain independence and safety in your own home!

3. Seek friendship and visitation

Isolation is one of the most formidable factors. To avoid the risk of falls, it is important to surround yourself with others, whether it’s family, friends or neighbors. If that is not a possibility, there are many companies that offer homecare services or housecleaning, or look into joining a local club or association for others who share in your hobbies or your age group. There are so many ways to not be alone, with consistent visits and pleasant company. Should you seek advice on where potential hazards exist in your home, occupational therapists will often make house visits to assess your house or apartment. Together, you can talk about your concerns and potential equipment that can simplify your life and bring you more comfort on a daily basis.

4. Age in grace

The stairs are the #1 place where falls occur most frequently. Thankfully, the medical industry continues to innovate solutions that facilitate getting around your home so those who wish to maintain their independence, can. Stairlifts, access ramps, home elevators, bathroom safety equipment all exist so you can gracefully age in place. Your home is where memories have been made, neighbors have become friends – why leave it behind when safety, comfort and convenience can all be ensured?

To live well is to be aware of the risks that surround us, evaluate them, but not let them stop us. Instead, understand the risks so you can take the necessary measures to overcome them and live even more extraordinarily!

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