This week marks the beginning of autumn. It’s also the start of national Fall Prevention Awareness Week to help older adults lower their risks for falls.
According to the Hawaii State Department of Health, an average of 86 seniors die, 1,912 are hospitalized, and 8,010 are treated in emergency rooms as a result of falls each year in Hawaii.
The good news is that these accidents are preventable. Pete Clines, a senior educator with Healthways, shared three important guidelines to protect you or a loved one from suffering from a fall.
1. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
This is important when you’re out and about, but it’s just as important when you’re at home where more than half of falls happen.
“You can liken your environment to a minefield,” Clines said. “If you identify the hazards first, then you can start minimizing the chances for a fall.”
There are numerous ways to make your home safer:
• Clear walkways of clutter.
• Remove or secure loose rugs or wires.
• Install adequate lighting.
• Install handrails along stairways and in the bathroom.
Another important piece of advice: “Take your time,” Clines said. “Accidents often happen when you’re in a rush.”
2. Know Your Health Conditions
Side effects from prescription medication, deteriorating vision, and osteoporosis—a bone disease that can lead to changes in balance—are common health-related culprits in a fall.
To minimize these risks:
• Review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist. They can look into side effects and drug interactions that may cause dizziness or drowsiness. They can also help ensure that you’re taking your medications properly.
• Get your eyes checked regularly and make sure your eyeglass prescriptions are up to date.
• Practice good posture and make sure to get sufficient vitamin D and calcium.
3. Stay Active
Regular exercise improves balance, flexibility, and strength. Clines said staying active is particularly important for people who’ve already suffered a fall and are fearful of moving around again.
“If you don’t say active, atrophy kicks in, your agility declines, and the chances of another fall increases,” Clines said. “It’s a vicious cycle.”
• It’s good to have a daily routine such as gardening, yoga, or walking around the mall or neighborhood.
• Tai Chi is a great way to improve your balance. Find some beginner exercises here.
• Simple progressive drills such as the tandem stance and heel and toe raises can also improve your strength and balance.
Always check with your doctor before you start a new activity.
The 2016 Hawaii Seniors Fair
The 2016 Hawaii Seniors Fair will be held September 23-25, at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. It’s a great event for seniors to learn more about their health and well-being and the services and products available to assist them. Visit the HMSA booth where you and the seniors in your family can share your personal well-being habits on our well-being wall, discover discounts through our HMSA365 program, and ask questions about your health plan. Seniors can also get their blood pressure and BMI checked and get a flu or pneumococcal shot.