Helping Seniors Avoid Falls 

 August 10, 2010

By  Dr. John Vilkelis


Falls are one of the leading problems facing senior citizens.  An injury resulting from a fall can often lead to permanent disability.  One out of three people over the age of sixty will suffer a fall each year and fear of falling can often force seniors to curtail their activities.

The risk of falling is caused by three major factors for seniors:  the normal aging process, disease and the person’s environment.

As people age there are normal alterations in gait, vision, posture hearing and cognition – all of which may contribute to an increased incidence of falls.  Cardiovascular conditions, neurological impairments, psychological disorders and metabolic disorders may directly influence a person’s functional capabilities.  Environmental factors include a person’s physical surroundings and medications that may put them at risk for falling.

Many falls can be prevented with some simple changes lifestyle changes and modifications to the home environment.  Below are a few suggestions to make the home safer for seniors.

Lifestyle Changes:

  1. Get a chiropractor.  You will have better mobility and less arthritic pain.
  2. Have your vision and hearing checked regularly.
  3. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the side effects of your medication.
  4. Limit your intake of alcohol.
  5. Use caution when getting up from sleeping or eating.
  6. Wear supportive (preferably lace-up shoes with a low heel), rubber soled shoes.
  7. If necessary, use a cane or a walker to help maintain your balance.  Sometimes using a supportive device like a cane for a short period will allow a person to heal an injury safely without the risk of a more serious injury.
  8. Maintain a regular exercise program to improve muscle strength, tone and stability.  It is never too late to start.

Home Modification:

  1. Clear pathways of clutter and electrical cords.
  2. Attach rugs and carpets firmly with double sided tape or rubber padding.
  3. Rearrange the furniture so they are not obstacles.
  4. Use a raised seat or change the toilet to a raised bowl.
  5. Install safety rails around the toilet and shower.  Consider a shower chair for the tub.
  6. Install a rubber bath mat or adhesive non-slip “stickers” to the tub floor to create a non-slip surface.
  7. Install sturdy handrails on both sides of the stairways.
  8. Paint the top and bottom steps a contrasting color or use reflective tape to make the stairs more visible.
  9. Keep outdoor steps and walkways in good repair.
  10. Provide adequate lighting inside and out.  For the frugal minded senior, there are light bulbs that use only 25 watts of electricity and give off a brightness equal to a 100 watt bulb.

These tips should be helpful.  Please let me know what you think of this article.  I would love to share your experience.

Dr. John Vilkelis

Dr. Vilkelis has been in private practice for over 27 years. He has a reputation for truly caring for his patients and goes the extra mile to make sure people get the help they need. He accepts patients of all ages and is eager to help you get well and stay healthy. Give him a call today at (914) 618-4330.

Dr. John G. Vilkelis

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