By Neurology Solutions

As people age, muscle degeneration occurs, and strength, and thus balance, becomes impaired. People who lead a sedentary lifestyle can lose about half their strength and about 40% of their muscle, which leads to a loss of balance as well. The risk of falling and severity of injury from falling increases with age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in people 65 and older. Common injuries due to falls are head injuries, shoulder and forearm fractures, spine fractures, pelvic fractures, and hip fractures (American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons).

Thousands of elderly Americans fall in their homes each year, often due to factors that can be modified for fall prevention in advance. It is important that people over the age of 65 and their families work with them before experiencing a fall to identify and correct risk factors in the home.

With June recognized as National Safety Month, take some time this month to help your elderly parents, neighbors and others make their home a safer place. If they do not have a friend or family member to assist with the needed modifications in their homes, seek out a handyman in your area that can make the needed adjustments.

Here are some adjustments to consider making to your home to work to prevent falls before they happen:

  • Remove anything on the floor, stairways and other pathways that one could potentially slip on or trip over including: cords, throw rugs (secure larger rugs to floor), clutter, pet bowls, shoes and anything else that may cause a risk. Also, remember to clear all walkways of furniture.

  • Replace low chairs and other furniture with seating that is easier to get in and out of.

  • Purchase a non-slip rubber mat for inside the tub or shower and one adjacent to the shower (for easier entry and exit) as well as grab bars to install on the walls of your shower; and a raised seat for your toilet to make sitting down and getting up easier.

  • Install a no-step ramp with railing to get into at least one entryway in your home.

  • Make sure your floors are not slippery. If using floor wax, ensure it is non-slip. Be sure to clean up liquid or food spills immediately.

  • Lighting is important in fall prevention as eyesight weakens with age as well. Have an easy to reach lamp near your bedside, install night lights throughout your home, make sure lightbulbs are always replaced promptly keeping your home well-lit, and consider installing motion-detector lights or glow in the dark light switches near stairwells.

  • Re-arrange frequently used items so they are easily accessible. Place dishes and other items you frequently use in the kitchen on lower shelves and bathroom items and clothing in your closet in places that are easy to reach without using a stool or bending over.

  • Repair loose wooden floor boards, loose stairway carpeting and boards and cracked or uneven sidewalks outside of your home as soon as possible.

  • If you have pets, place a bell on your small dogs or cats so you are aware when they are near your feet. Train your dogs to walk beside you instead of in front of you.

  • Lastly, have access to a telephone at all times. Keep a cellphone or wireless phone in your pocket, have a telephone that can be reached from the floor and a phone near your bed.

These precautions should be taken in your home as soon as possible, especially if you have experienced a fall already. Click here to read more about the physical therapy services offered by Neurology Solutions Movement Disorders Center at its on-site physical therapy center Austin Renewal Therapy, including dynamic balance assessment and fall prevention education.

Don’t let worry of falling stop you from living your life and engaging in walking, outings and other social activities. If you are worried about falling, contact your local physical therapist. Physical therapy can help you improve your balance and confidence with walking. Improved diet and mild exercise can improve muscle strength as well. Read more here about some of the best exercises and training to limit muscle and strength loss to work to maintain balance and prevent falls. It is recommended to start exercising sooner rather than later for the best benefits. Please consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise programs.

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