According to the American Geriatrics Society, more than one third of people over the age of 65 have at least one fall each year.
Even falls without injury can have negative effects on older adults.
Often we find that elderly patients voluntarily restrict their activity because they fear falling.
A viscous cycle of less exercise and activity results in further weakness that in turn may result in another fall.
While falls resulting in injuries tend to occur more frequently in the elderly population, they are not isolated to this group. Everyone is at risk for falls.
To reduce your risk begin a regular exercise program.
Exercise is one of the most important ways to reduce your chances of falling. Exercises that improve balance and coordination are the most helpful.
Lack of exercise leads to weakness and increases your chances of falling. Ask your doctor or health care worker about the best type of exercise program for you.
Make your home safer. About half of all falls happen at home.
To make your home safer:
* Remove things you can trip over (such as papers, books, clothes, and shoes) from stairs and places where you walk.
* Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep the rugs from slipping.
* Keep items you use often in cabinets you can reach easily without using a step stool.
* Have grab bars put in next to your toilet and in the tub or shower.
* Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
* Improve the lighting in your home. As you get older, you need brighter lights to see well. Lamp shades or frosted bulbs can reduce glare.
* Have handrails and lights installed on all staircases.
* Wear shoes that give good support and have thin, non-slip soles. Avoid wearing slippers and athletic shoes with deep treads.
* Have your health care provider review your medicines, including ones that don't require a prescription such as cold medicines.
As you get older, the way some medicines work in your body can change. Some medicines, or combinations of medicines, can make you drowsy or light-headed, which can lead to a fall.
* Have your vision checked by an eye doctor. You may be wearing the wrong glasses or have a condition such as glaucoma or cataracts that limits your vision. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling.
Washington Township Fire Department Fire Marshal Alan Perkins submitted the Smoke Signals column.