When you’re a kid, you can take a big tumble every day. You jump back up and dust yourself off. As we age, it gets more complicated. Balance and strength may falter as we get older. Our bones may get more brittle. And serious falls can lead to life-threatening complications with elders.
That’s the bad news.
The good news? Everyone can get stronger. Everyone. And a few common-sense precautions can significantly reduce your risk of serious falls.
Everyone Can Strengthen Their Body to Reduce Chance of Injuries & Ailments
Getting stronger doesn’t have to mean you become a gym rat. You need to move your body. Every day an elder spends in bed leads to a 5 percent decline in muscle mass. We truly have a “use it or lose it” body.
After you consult with your doctor or physical therapist, get moving! Do what you find enjoyable, whether walking briskly, swimming, cycling, golfing (Walk the course! Don’t use the cart!), yoga, or playing tennis. If you are confined to a bed or wheelchair, you can still do strength exercises or modified yoga.
The More Active You Are, the Stronger Your Body Will Become
The stronger you are, the less chance you have of suffering a serious fall.
It’s also essential to understand the mechanics of falls: Essentially, when you take a tumble, it’s because your body didn’t react adequately to navigate the surrounding environment.
Be aware of the physical changes that commonly lead to falls: A decline in a vision can make it challenging to pick out obstacles like branches or open doors or small pets. You may not be able to see that the ground ahead is broken or uneven. If your blood pressure or blood sugar drops, that can make you feel faint and increase your risk of falling.
Be Smart, Wear the Right Shoes, Don’t Walk Anywhere You Feel Likely to Fall
Wear sensible shoes. Old age is not the time for stiletto heels or combat boots. Look for comfortable, flat-soled shoes.
Be especially careful of transitions:
- getting into, or out of, cars
- opening doors
- descending stairs
- stepping from the solid ground onto a pier or a boat
- walking from a hardwood floor to an area rug
Don’t be embarrassed if you need to take a little extra time to look around and plan how you will proceed.
If you feel you need a little more stability, a cane is good, but a walker is better. The four points of contact on a walker give you a lot more stability than the one point of a cane. Hiking poles are also a good option.
Check out this tip sheet from Centers for Disease Control
Ask any question at ElderConsult’s Community Chat. For caregiver questions, contact Tami Anastasi. For medical education, contact Dr Liz.
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Elizabeth (Dr Liz) has over twenty years of experience in providing medical care to the elders. She is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care Medicine. Dr Landsverk founded ElderConsult Geriatric Medicine, a house calls practice, to address the challenging medical and behavioral issues often facing older patients and their families.