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Talking with loved ones about falls prevention
Talk about the fear of falling.
Talk about remaining or becoming more physically active.
Don't ignore chronic pain.
Encourage use of canes and other assistive devices.
Promote good health and hydration.
STEADY U Ohio is a statewide collaborative falls prevention initiative, supported by Ohio government and state business partners to ensure that every county, every community and every Ohioan knows how they can prevent falls, one step at a time. This website is the source in Ohio for falls prevention information, tools and other resources.
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Falling is not a normal part of aging, and most falls can be prevented. By knowing and managing your risk factors, you can live a full and active life free of the fear of falling.
You can reduce your risk of falling by paying more attention to what we like to call the "Three H's:" Your home, your health and your habits.
Let's talk about falls prevention
September is Falls Prevention Awareness Month
September is Falls Prevention Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time to talk with your older loved ones about falls and the many things they can do to reduce their risk and prevent them.
A single fall can change a loved one’s life significantly and make her less independent and more reliant on others. You want to help, but find she doesn’t want to talk about the subject. Falls also affect family members and others, so you need to find a balance between ensuring your loved one’s safety and respecting her right to make her own decisions.
Bring the topic up frequently and be persistent, but respectful. If she says she doesn't want to talk about it, that's OK. Let it go for the time being, but bring the topic up again, soon.
Start the conversation by assuring her that falling is not a normal part of aging. While many age-related factors increase risk, most falls can be prevented. Share stories of others you know who have fallen and ask open-ended questions like: "What could he have done to prevent that fall?"
Talk to your loved one about remaining healthy and active. That includes eating nutritious meals and drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, along with physical activity to maintain strength, flexibility and balance. Find activities you enjoy together and volunteer to exercise with your loved one.
Look around your loved one’s home for common falls risks and talk about how to remove them. Look for rugs and poorly lit areas first. Rearrange kitchens, bathrooms and closets to minimize bending and stretching. Encourage the use of canes or walkers and make sure they are adjusted properly. Discuss more substantial changes, like adding grab bars to the bathroom, second railings to stairs and extra lighting.
More tips for talking with loved ones about falls prevention...
Read past spotlight articles...
Falls prevention begins at home. As we age, our bodies change and things that were once appropriate for us may no longer be. Making your home safer starts with minor changes, but could also include both minor and major investments in safety now and into the future.
To create a falls-free home, check for common falls risks in different areas of your home:
By making a few simple changes you can make your home immediately more fall-proof with little or no expense:
Here are some simple and inexpensive items and improvements that can reduce your risk of falling in your home.
In addition, you may want to consider some modifications, especially if you or a loved one live in an older home. These repairs and additions can cost anywhere from a couple hundred to a few thousand dollars, but could help you avoid many more dollars in medical costs due to a fall.
If you aren't able or can't afford to take on these projects, there may be organizations in your community that can help. Ask your area agency on aging, city or county office on aging, community action center, senior center or local United Way office about available programs in your area. Find services where you live...
Stairs can be particularly dangerous for someone who may not be as strong or flexible as they once were. However a few minor changes and smart habits can make you safer going up and down at home or in the community.
At home, give your stairs a good safety check.
In addition, adopt these smart habits to be safe on stairs at home and when you are out and about.
Almost 80 percent of falls in the home occur in the bathroom, and according to the CDC, more than 200,000 seniors are treated in emergency rooms each year for bathroom-related injuries. However, the addition of some simple and inexpensive safety features can make your bathroom cozy, relaxing and, most importantly, safe.
Do you know somebody who uses a nearby towel rack or the shower curtain rod to steady themselves in the tub or shower? This is a bad idea if you weigh more than a towel or shower curtain. Professionally installed grab bars provide more support and are much safer. Have reachable grab bars installed to help get in and out of the tub or shower, as well as for getting on and off the toilet.
Additional tips for a safer bathroom:
Many of us choose to share our homes with pets, and for good reasons. Studies have shown that owning a pet helps people socialize, increases their activity levels, and improves their mood. Pets also can lower an owner's blood pressure and decrease depression, stress and anxiety.
Even with all the health benefits, owning a pet can increase your risk of falling. Here are some tips to keep you from literally going head-over-heels for your pet:
A healthy body is a steady body. As we age, our bodies change, and those changes sometimes can increase our risk of falling. The good news is they don't have to. By understanding what happens to our bodies, making healthy choices and having ongoing conversations with our health care professionals, we can significantly reduce our risk of falling.
Exercise is one of the most important things you or your older loved ones can do to reduce the risk of falls and minimize injuries from a fall. Here are some easy exercises you can do in the safety of your home to maintain or improve your balance and help you prevent falls.
Weight Shifting: Standing with your feet at hip-width, shift your weight to one side, lifting your opposite foot off of the floor. Hold the position as long as you can (about 30 seconds), then shift to the other side and repeat three times (or as many times as you are comfortable).
One-Legged Balancing: Start with your feet at hip-width and your hands on your hips. Lift one leg, bending at the knee, and hold this position for up to 30 seconds. Alternate with the other leg, and repeat five times (or as many times as you are comfortable).
Heel-Toe Walk: Stand with your arms straight out and your feet side by side. Focusing on a spot in front of you, take a step forward, placing the heel of the front foot directly in front of and touching the toe of your back foot. Take 10-20 steps this way, as you are comfortable.
Leg Raises: Sit in a sturdy chair with only your toes and the balls of your feet on the floor. Slowly extend one leg in front of you as straight as possible, but don't lock your knee. Flex your foot and point your toes toward the ceiling. Hold for 1 second then slowly lower your leg. Repeat 10-15 times, then switch to the other leg.
Foot Taps: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart in front of a step (the bottom step of a staircase will work) or low piece of furniture. If needed, hold onto the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. Slowly raise one foot to tap the step in front of you, and then return it to the floor. Perform 15 to 20 taps, then repeat on the opposite leg. As you get stronger, perform the move without holding onto anything.
Head Rotations: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. If needed, hold onto the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. Slowly move your head from side to side then up and down while keep your body as still as possible. Do this for 30 seconds, then repeat. If you get dizzy, pause and move your head more slowly. If you’re still dizzy, stop. As you get stronger, perform the move without holding onto anything.
Standing Marches: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. If needed, hold onto the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. From here, lift one knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor (or as close to parallel as you can go) while you keep your torso straight and avoid any leaning. Pause, then slowly return your foot to the floor. Perform 20 marches, alternating between legs with each march. As you get stronger, perform the move without holding onto anything.
Sit-To-Stands: Stand tall with your back facing a sturdy chair and your feet hip-width apart. If you need to, hold onto the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. Sit back and slowly lower your hips onto the chair as gently as possible. Without swinging your torso, push through your heels to stand up. Perform 10 times. As you get stronger, perform the move without holding onto anything.
These exercises will get easier the more you do them. Try to do them at least three to five times a week for best results. If you are unsteady when you first start, use a wall, countertop or sturdy chair to help you keep your balance, or ask a family member or friend to help.
Walking also is a great exercise, and public places like indoor shopping malls and museums can give you the opportunity to get some steps in, even when the weather outside is frightful. Check with your local senior center for indoor walking groups or exercise programs.
You've heard it before: You are what you eat. But did you know that healthy eating can also help prevent falls? Eating nutritious foods protects bones, joints and muscles and gives you strength and stamina, which ensures that you're able to stay active and independent.
The definition of healthy eating does change a little as you age; for example, your body may need more of certain nutrients. Your metabolism also slows down, so you need fewer calories than before. This means that it is more important to choose foods that give you the best nutritional value.
The National Council on Aging recommends these steps to find the best foods for a steady body:
Learn more about senior nutrition...
Your health care provider is an important partner in helping you or a loved one prevent falls, and they can assist the best when you discuss with them what is going on in your life and health openly and honestly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you ask your doctor or healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for falling at least annually, and talk with him or her about specific things you can do to lower your falls risk. Questions to ask your provider include:
The discussion with your doctor about falls must be a two-way conversation. It's important to tell your health care professional about any events or symptoms you've experienced in the past six months that could contribute to a higher risk falling - even if he or she doesn't ask. Openly and honestly tell your doctor if:
Finally, be sure talk to your doctor about chronic pain. Individuals with severe chronic pain are up to 77 percent more likely to fall than those without pain. Pain can cause you to resist activity and exercise and some pain medications can make you less stable on your feet. Talk with your doctor about the pain you experience and the best ways to treat the underlying causes of the pain.
Modern medicine is helping people live longer, healthier lives, but some prescription medications can increase your risk of falling by causing dizziness, drowsiness or numbness. They could also have other side effects that affect your balance and perception. You can avoid many risk factors that can lead to a fall and injury by being partners with your doctor and pharmacist and talking about your prescriptions.
Article: Write a Prescription to Prevent Falls
Good vision is crucial to prevent falls, but it's no secret that, for many of us, our ability to see clearly in all situations can decline. That's why it's important to have an annual eye exam throughout your life and to use prescripition eyewear as directed.
Further, there are things you can do around your home that can help you see better:
The decisions we make and the things we do every day can affect our likelihood of falling. Things that we once did easily may now require a little more thought and planning. By adopting a few new healthy habits - and dropping bad ones - you'll soon be making decisions that will keep you steady on your feet.
The eight most basic ways to stay active and healthy to prevent falls:
Preventing falls sometimes can be as simple as adopting new habits or breaking bad ones. Here are a few healthy habits that can help you lower your risk.
If you are going out alone, carry a cell phone. Know who you will call if you fall, and make sure that person knows what to do if you call.
Some older adults find that they could benefit from a little help to get around. A simple walking cane may be the answer. However, a cane that is used improperly or is not the right type for your needs could make things worse instead of better. Here's how to get the most out of a walking cane:
Did you know that preventing falls can also help you be a better driver? Each year, nearly 12 million older adults experience a fall. Nationally, drivers who are 60 years of age or older are responsible for more than 400,000 automobile accidents annually.
A 2016 study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that older adults with a history of falling are at a 40 percent greater risk of being involved an auto accident than those who have never fallen. The report finds that a fall history can impact a person's driving capacity, making driving potentially unsafe for the driver and others.
This link between falls and auto accidents suggests that preventing a fall and addressing any health problems that may have contributed to a fall can make you a safer driver. Falls in older adults can cause injuries such as fractures and sprains that make driving difficult. These and similar conditions can lengthen your reaction time, limit your ability to see the environment around you and, perform steering maneuvers or brake. Falls can also be an indication of other health problems that can contribute to driving difficulties, including poor balance or vision issues.
To address these issues, recognize your limitations and take steps to reduce or minimize risk factors.
Activities that sharpen physical skills and improve balance, strength and flexibility will not only lessen your falls risk, but may also improve your driving.
Learn more about older driver safety and transportation options...
Most falls in older adults can be prevented. A person's risk for falls goes down the minute he or she stops being afraid of falling. Preventing falls for every older Ohioan will take a community approach. Everyone - from the individual and his family, to doctors and nurses, to business owners and managers, to community leaders and more - has a role to play in preventing falls. It's like the old saying goes, "United we stand, divided we fall." What's your role in preventing falls in Ohio?
A single fall can change someone's life significantly and make her more reliant on others for help. As a someone who cares for or about an older loved one, you have to find the balance between ensuring your loved one is safe, and respecting her right to make decisions for herself.
Many older adults are reluctant to talk about falling because they see it as a threat to their independence. Bring the topic up frequently with your loved one and be persistent, but respectful. If he says he doesn't want to talk about it, that's OK, but bring the topic up again, soon.
People who fall (or nearly fall) may develop a fear of falling and modify their behavior in ways that actually increase their risk of falling again, such as becoming less active and changing the way they walk. A Matter of Balance is a community-based workshop that can help your loved one (and you) learn to see falls as something that can be controlled.
Any type of movement helps, from simply lifting your legs while you watch TV and marching in place in the kitchen, to walking and swimming, to exercise programs like yoga and tai chi.
More tips about exercise to prevent falls...
Individuals with severe chronic pain are up to 77 percent more likely to fall than those without pain. Pain can cause your loved one to resist activity and exercise. Likewise, some pain medications can make him less stable on his feet.
Walkers and canes can help with balance. Folding step stools with hand rails are a far safer alternative to reaching high places than chairs or other furniture. Other devices, such as tools for reaching and grabbing, can keep a loved one from over-extending and losing balance.
Regarding canes and walkers:
More tips for walking cane safety...
A balanced diet with a variety of vegetables and calcium-rich foods promotes overall general health and minimizes the symptoms of some chronic illnesses. Staying properly hydrated prevents low blood pressure, dizziness, fatigue and confusion.
More tips about nutrition to prevent falls...
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and the most common cause of hospital admissions for trauma in older Ohioans. Health care and other service providers, like doctors, nurses, physical therapist, pharmacists, EMTs, home health aides, senior center staff and others, are uniquely positioned to actively assess their consumers' risk and teach them prevention strategies.
Further, researchers at the Boston University Medical Center recently found that only seven out of ten (71 percent) older adults who had visited an emergency room because of a fall talked to their regular health care provider about the fall that sent them to the ER. Fewer than half (46 percent) asked family for help to prevent future falls. About a third (37 percent) asked their health care provider or friends for help to prevent falls. Most concerning, only two percent sough out a falls prevention program and fewer than one percent actually participated in such a program.
In clinical settings, an effective falls intervention involves assessing and addressing an individual's fall risk factors. The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Older Adult Falls Prevention Coalition encourage all Ohio health care providers to adopt the STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries) toolkit.
STEADI is a suite of materials created for health care providers to help assess, treat and refer older patients based on their falls risk. STEADI can help you:
According to the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, slips, trips and falls are the leading cause for worker injury. When staff or customers fall in your business, it doesn't just hurt them; it also hurts your reputation and your bottom line.
Most falls in businesses can be prevented, and prevention can be done largely through staff and customer education and motivation. The Ohio Council of Retail Merchants and the Golden Buckeye program have partnered with STEADY U Ohio to provide tips and resources to retailers to make their businesses "fall-free zones."
September is Falls Prevention Awareness Month.
The STEADY U initiative coordinates two opportunities in Ohio's communities to learn how to prevent falls. "A Matter of Balance" connects you to others to learn together about proven strategies to remove falls hazards and reduce your fear of falling. In addition, tai chi instructors in your community can help you learn the ancient martial art proven to increase balance and strength.
Volunteer as a health and wellness program leader.
Contact us for more information.
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