September is National Falls Prevention Month and we will be bombarded with information about fall prevention and the scary statistics of fall risk among older Americans. At Age Safe America we know the harsh reality that a fall changes everything!
Falls have become epidemic in America and are now the leading cause of death due to injury for those over 65, and account for 40% of all nursing home admissions. Falls are also the leading cause of injury related emergency department visits for older adults, the major cause of hip fractures, and responsible for more than half of fatal head injuries. Nearly half of all seniors sustaining a fall DO NOT resume independent living.
For the person who takes a fall, they become more nervous about experiencing it again. Their gait and speed of walking changes and even the smallest, imperceptible changes can lead to another fall as our bodies adjust to the new reality. The family members of someone who has taken a fall find themselves a little more concerned and guarded about the fall itself. Sometimes, they leap to conclusions and take unnecessary actions, while well-intended, are not always good solutions.
As with so many things in our lives, prevention is worth a pound of cure-thanks to Benjamin Franklin. There are seven simple exercises that we can do to improve balance and strength to reduce the risk of falls.
The exercises are:
- Heel lifts- stand with both feet flat on the ground. Raise your heels and stand on your tiptoes. Hold for a second and lower back down.
- Toe lifts-stand with both feet flat on the ground. Raise your toes in the air until your weight is on your heels. Hold for a second and lower your toes.
- Leg lifts-stand straight and lift one leg off the ground. (Hold onto a chair or other support, if you need). After 10 seconds, lower your leg. Switch sides and repeat.
- Heel to toe walk-Slowly walk forward placing the heel of one foot directly in front of the other. Look ahead a bit if it helps keep your balance. Repeat for 20 steps.
- Backward leg lifts-stand straight with feet shoulder width apart. Hold on again if you need to do so and lift one leg behind you and lower it back down. Switch sides .
- Sit to stand- sit in a sturdy chair and place both feet on the floor. Stand using only your legs and slowly sit down again. You can hold your arms out in front of you or cross them.
- Wall push-ups- place your hands on the wall at chest height with your fingers pointed up. Keep your back straight and slowly bend your elbows to bring your body toward the wall. Then straighten your arms to push away from the wall.
Starting with a few repetitions at least twice a week will show benefits in balance and strength…and confidence!
A comprehensive home safety assessment performed by a trained Age Safe Advisor Member, along with some low-cost modifications can serve to effectively reduce falls and fall-related injury for older adults.