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John Wanca has been practicing physical therapy for over three decades. His experience with a wide variety of injuries has given him in-depth knowledge about the unique needs of his patients. He is here today to discuss how senior citizens can minimize their risk of falls.
Have you ever experienced a fall? In 2016, more than 2.5 million Americans will turn 70, and fall-related injuries are the 5th costliest medical expenditure among their age group. Reducing the number of injuries sustained from falls can help keep medical costs low, but more importantly, it will keep our seniors as safe and independent as possible. Falls can occur anywhere, indoors or outdoors, at any time. These are steps we can take to minimize injuries and prevent falls.
Many seniors enjoy walking and spending time outdoors, but proper precautions should be taken to prevent injury. When outdoors, ensure the surfaces you are walking on are safe. If walking on an uneven or rougher terrain, ensure steady footing with an appropriate assistive device, such as a cane or walker, as well as suitable footwear. When outdoor surfaces are wet they tend to be more slippery, so make sure you are aware of these conditions. When walking up a ramp or stairs, use a hand railing if it is available.
Most falls among seniors occur inside, especially in the bathroom area. When in the bathroom, be careful with slippery surfaces and use grab bars if needed. Using a shower chair might be a good idea to make showering easier and safer. After showering, make sure your towel and clothing are close by to avoid walking while still wet.
For the middle of the night needs, install a night light that is motion-sensitive so you can see where you’re going. Always make sure that when you first get up, you give yourself a few moments to become oriented. You should wear a supportive slipper that has a back and a good gripping sole to provide you with more support. If you use assistive devices such as canes or walkers in the house, use them at night when getting up to use the restroom.
For anyone who is a fall risk, make sure to get rid of any throw rugs that could potentially cause you to slip and fall. If you have pets, make sure you know where they are when walking to avoid tripping over them, especially if they run to the door when a visitor arrives.
Exercise is critical in maintaining balance, strength, and mobility. Good balance while walking will reduce the risk of falls, and it can be improved by performing simple exercises. Careful stretching of the lower back and hips, stretching of the lower body, and standing balance exercises will help to minimize falls. Your local Foothills physical therapist can help you effectively formulate a tailored exercise program that will improve strength and balance to help prevent falls. Trained PTs can also go on house calls to make recommendations about home modifications like grab bars and shower chairs that will make your home a safer place to live.
By following all of these tips, we can hopefully minimize falls this coming year and our seniors will be able to continue performing daily activities without any issues. Find a location near you for a free injury assessment.