Poor balance and vision, weak muscles, low blood pressure, reduced reaction time... no one said aging was easy! Though if any of this sounds familiar, you’re at risk of having a fall. If you’re 65 or older, you have a one in three chance, but you needn’t take it lying down.
There’s a lot you can do to ensure you – or a loved one – stay safe. Things like:
- having regular check-ups and addressing any health issues such as foot pain that might make walking difficult or affect your balance
- changing your medication to ensure the correct dosage and avoid side effects such as dizziness
- ensuring you’re wearing the correct glasses
- wearing well-fitting shoes with non-slip soles – even around the house
- keeping as active as you can to maintain your confidence, strength and stability. This could be as simple as regular walks, or trying some gentle tai chi. Exercising also helps to keep your bones strong, meaning they’re less likely to break if you do take a tumble.
You might like to ask your doctor or nurse for a health assessment. As well as examining your physical health, they can look at the potential hazards in your home. It might be helpful to:
- reduce clutter, rearrange furniture, and remove rugs and electrical cords to prevent tripping
- add some handrails to help you get around, and in places such as the bathroom
- improve the lighting. Lights that come on automatically, switches at the top and bottom of stairs or a bedside lamp within easy reach can all make a big difference.
Protect yourself by having a plan:
- get a personal medical alarm for peace of mind and help when you need it
- keep a phone located on or close to the ground that you could crawl to
- give a trusted family member, friend or neighbour a key to your home
- stand up slowly from lying or sitting
- practice getting up from the ground so if you need to, you can
- have a walking aid you can use when you’re out and about.
If you do fall:
- don’t panic!
- calmly work out whether you can get up
- if you can get up: bend your knees, roll onto your side, move onto all fours, then crawl to a sturdy piece of furniture you can use to right yourself. If you can’t get up: slide or crawl to the phone or to get help, or make a loud noise to attract attention. Try to stay warm and comfortable until assistance arrives.
Visit www.LiveStonger.org.nz for more ideas on how to live stronger and longer by preventing falls and fractures.