3 of the Most Effective Ways to Prevent Falls Among Seniors Aging in Place
There’s no place like home, and for many seniors fearful at the prospect of aging, no truer words have been said. But despite home being the ultimate comfort zone, aging in place is not without challenges and dangers—not the least of which is the risk of falling that inevitably increases as health conditions and motor functions change.
Falling comes with huge and often dire consequences for the elderly, including surgery, hospitalization, and a great deal of pain and discomfort. For this reason, fall prevention should be made a priority when the choice is made to age at home. Consider the following strategies.
1. Take Stock
Successfully aging in place—and, by extension, preventing falls—starts with an honest evaluation of one’s mobility and physical status. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your doctor regarding any conditions like joint pain and dizziness because these factors can affect your balance and coordination. You should also consider chronic illnesses that affect your motor functions, and medications you’re taking as these could have side effects like lightheadedness that could cause a fall. Lastly, make sure that your sight prescriptions are current. Be acutely aware that bifocals and progressive lenses work differently indoors, so it’s possible that you might need a different pair of specs for around the house.
On the other side of the coin, you also need to assess your home. This would entail going room to room and taking stock of areas like stairways and bathrooms that you might have a challenge accessing, as well as potential trip hazards. Be aware that as you get older, seemingly innocuous items and routines around the house that you normally wouldn’t give a second thought to could now pose a threat to your safety, so it’s important to see them in a new light.
2. Make Modifications
Although the level and amount of work will vary, it’s a given that home modifications will be necessary when you decide to age at home. At the very least, these can be as simple as removing surface hazards like rugs and exposed electrical cords or re-organizing to keep everything in your closets and pantry within easy reach. You may also need to add extra lighting to certain areas.
In some cases, more extensive work might even be required. A ramp may need to be installed or a chairlift fitted on a stairwell. Floors may need to be stripped and overhauled to prevent slips and trips. But the most important modifications almost always occur in the bathroom. This can entail adding grab bars to the tub or removing the tub altogether in favor of a walk-in shower.
Indeed, there are countless modifications that you can do to make your home more senior-accessible, many of them quite challenging. But by implementing the necessary changes, you not only maintain your independence, you get to do so safely, too.
3. Keep Moving
Falls occur when balance is compromised. You might be surprised to know that regular physical activity goes a long way in keeping your feet on the ground. This is because exercise improves strength, flexibility, coordination, and, yes, balance. It’s important, therefore, to stay active and mobile.
Of course, you can exercise at home. But why not go out and make a fun routine out of it? If you have a Medicare Advantage plan from companies like Humana, you could also be eligible for SilverSneakers. This program gives you access to thousands of gyms and fitness centers across the United States where you can join low-intensity exercise classes designed for seniors such as water aerobics, yoga, and tai chi. So not only is it a fantastic way to stay fit and healthy, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to socialize and make friends.
It’s true that there’s uncertainty in aging, but there’s plenty of comfort in being able to do so in the place that you love most: home. With the right measures and improvements in place, you can now face the uncertainty of your twilight years head-on, and with a firmer foothold to boot.