Here at Fairview Range, we want our patients to take the necessary precautions to keep themselves safe. June is National Safety Month. We ask our patients to take the time to consider precautions and prevention tips to ensure their own safety and the safety of others when it comes to preventing injury at work, at home, and in our communities. The following article was written by Dr. Kasey Kapella and first published in the Hibbing Daily Tribune Senior Resource Guide’s September 2018 issue.
The CDC reports that 1 in 3 adults age 65 and older had a fall in the last year. Falls are also the leading cause of injury in older adults. They are typically due to multiple factors which should be addressed to prevent serious injury.
I often hear patients or family members tell me a fall was a result of icy conditions, uneven walking surfaces, small pets, etc. It is true that environment is an important contributor to falls, but it is only part of the story. As we age, there are multiple key changes to our body’s ability to sense and respond to outside stimuli that make falls more likely. Some general measures to prevent falls are listed below.
- Modify your environment
- Ensure that your home has adequate lighting.
- Clear the floors of clutter or area rugs that you could trip over.
- Install grab bars in the tub/shower and near the toilet.
- Speak with your doctor about a formal home safety evaluation.
- Minimize Medications
- Medications are a very significant, but modifiable contributor to falls.
- Review and discuss your medications with your doctor.
- Consider requesting a Medication Therapy Management (MTM) Pharmacist evaluation of your medication. They will work with your doctor to simplify you medications.
- Manage Pain
- Chronic pain, like arthritis, can alter the way you walk and impair balance and strength making falls more likely.
- Talk with your doctor about ways to manage your pain.
- Discuss with your doctor or Physical Therapist whether use of orthotics, a cane, walker or other assistive device may reduce your risk of falling.
- There are several group exercise programs that have been shown to decrease falls. Programs that focus on strength and balance are best. Some examples are Tai Chi and ‘A Matter of Balance’ classes. Check with your community education office for available classes in your area.
- Several home based exercise programs are also effective and are done with the help of a Physical Therapist.
- Supplement Vitamin D
- Talk with your doctor about testing your vitamin D level to see if you would be a candidate for a supplement. Correcting low vitamin D levels has been shown to reduce risk of falls and falls with injury.
- Control your blood pressure
- Treat high blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can not only contribute to Stroke, but also dangerous changes in blood pressure when standing or sitting up.
- Prevent low blood pressure. Risk of dehydration increases as you age which can cause your blood pressure to drop too low. Ensure that you are drinking an appropriate amount of fluid and ask your doctor about medications that may contribute to dehydration.
- Treat visual problems
- Individuals with visual problems are almost 2 times as likely to fall. Make sure that your eye exam is up-to-date. You should see an eye doctor on a yearly basis.
Falls are the result of a complex interplay between the environment and a number of factors that are unique to the individual. If you have had a fall or near fall in the last year, please discuss this with your doctor or medical provider. They will be able to help you assess and treat contributing factors specific to you.
Kasey Kapella, MD
Family Medicine and Geriatrics
Fairview Mesaba Clinics – Hibbing