We’ve all read about exceptional senior citizens – the “Iron Nun” who competes in triathlons well into her 80s, for example. Maybe your grandfather was feisty and active until his final days. But they are indeed the exception! The unfortunate truth is many older Americans are at a considerable risk of falling. An older adult is treated in an emergency room every 11 seconds for a fall, says the National Council on Aging. 25% of Americans over 65 falls every year.
September is Falls Prevention Awareness Month. If you’re over 65 or love someone who is, take steps today to reduce the risk of falling. Start with these five fixes from Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center in Centreville, Virginia.
- Fix your home. Eliminate triggers to falling: secure long electrical cords. Clear all debris such as newspaper piles and pet toys from walking paths. Avoid the stairs. Install grab bars in the shower. Put non-slip pads under area rugs – or just eliminate the rugs. Improve the lighting in low-lit areas.
- Fix your diabetes. Blood sugar that’s too high or too low causes dizziness, weakness, blurred vision, confusion, and circulation problems in your feet – all of which plant you firmly in a high-risk category for falling.
- Fix your other health problems: chronic dizziness (vertigo), low blood pressure, weak muscles in your core, and poor vision.
- Fix your mind. Studies show if you’ve fallen once, you can easily become afraid of falling again. Behavioral counseling can help you overcome the fear – and so can implementing the other changes listed here.
- Fix your feet and ankles. Arthritis from a previous ankle injury, overpronation, shoes that provide no support, and severe bunions are all examples of foot problems that change your gait and make you unstable on your feet. If you live in Fairfax County, fix your feet by calling (703) 996-3000 for an appointment with our board-certified podiatrist.