Showing posts with label how to prevent falls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label how to prevent falls. Show all posts

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Balance Exercises Keep You on Your Feet!

Many people worry about losing their cognitive ability as they age, and it is a realistic concern.  As a result, they may watch their diet, get exercise and work crossword puzzles.  What many seniors do not realize, however, is that a serious risk to their memory and brain health is the possibility of falling and hitting their head.

According to the National Council on Aging, one out of every four people over the age of 65 will fall each year.  Every 11 seconds, a senior is treated for a fall in an emergency room.  Every 19 minutes in the United States an older person dies from a fall.  Fall prevention and the protection of your brain from trauma is extremely important for anyone who wants to live a long, healthy life.

Exercises to Improve Your Balance

In the retirement community where we live, balance is a component of nearly every exercise class, whether you are taking yoga, tai chi, or an aerobics class.  One way to prevent falls is to strengthen your muscles and, at the same time, concentrate on your balance.  There are a variety of types of balance exercises which can benefit you, and they can be done easily at home by most healthy adults.

First of all, you do not want to fall while you are doing your balance exercises.  As a result, make sure you have a wall or stable chair near you to help you stabilize yourself as you gain strength.

Stand on one leg - Place your hand on a wall or chair, put your weight on one leg and lift your other foot off the floor. You can tap your foot on the floor ahead of you or to the side. Switch legs. Start with just a half dozen repetitions on each leg.  If you are not comfortable standing on one leg with the other in the air, try putting all your weight on one leg and use the toes on the other foot to maintain your balance.  Eventually, you may be able to stand on one leg while lifting the other a few inches off the floor.

Deep knee bends - In order to strengthen your thighs and calves, put your back against the wall and lower your body until you are in a deep knee bend.  Once you are as low as you can safely and comfortably go, lift your heals off the floor as you straighten your legs and stand back up.  Gradually, this will make your legs stronger and they will be better able to hold you up.  Don't overdo it when you start, because your legs will be sore! You also want to be careful not to go too low at first, so you don't slip, or slide down the wall.

Leg lifts - Strengthen you core muscles by laying on the floor with your hands next to your side.  Slowly raise your legs until they point towards the ceiling; then lower them.  This will strengthen your abdomen and help you maintain your balance.  If you cannot do both legs at the same time, do one at a time or bend your legs while lifting them.  That will take some pressure off your lower back.

Rear leg lifts - Get on all fours on the floor.  Stretch one of your legs behind you and lift it a few times.  Switch legs.  This will help strengthen your back muscles, another muscle group which is important for balance.

Stand on your toes - Whenever you are standing around for a few minutes, you can strengthen your legs and improve your balance by doing simple things such as standing on your toes for ten to twenty seconds at a time. Repeat several times a day. Do NOT do this in the shower or on some other slippery surface.  However, it is a great exercise to do while standing in line at the grocery store or waiting for something to heat up in the microwave.  

All of these exercises can be done in a few minutes and should be repeated several times a week.  In this way, you will maintain your strength and reduce your risk of falling.  If you make them part of a regular exercise class or regimen, you are even more likely to stick with them.  Check with your local senior center to see if they offer exercise or balance classes for seniors.  Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, some communities are offering outdoor classes.

Other Ways to Protect Your Brain from Falls
In addition to maintaining your strength, there are also other important ways to protect your brain from falls.  Here are a few reminders:

Do not climb onto chairs, counters or high ladders.  One accident could do irreparable damage to your brain.

Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, scooter or any similar moving vehicle.  The motion of the vehicle could make it easier for you to lose your balance.

Use a cane or walker if your doctor recommends one.  These devices are designed to prevent falls and keep you moving, even when you are having difficulties with your strength or balance.

Remove rugs, extension cords, or anything else in your home which could cause you to trip and fall.  Put away shoes and packages so they are not sitting where they could cause you to trip.  

Watch where you are going.  It is easy to be distracted when walking your dog or chatting with a friend.  This could cause you to fail to notice a curb, stairs, uneven sidewalk, tree root, or other hazards. Pay attention to what lies ahead as you walk.
You may also want to read a book like "Better Balance for Life: Banish the Fear of Falling with Simple Activities Added to Your Everyday Routine." (Ad) It has many helpful suggestions to reduce your risk of falling.
Remember:  The last thing you want to do is cause your own death or dementia because of a fall.  Being cautious will help keep you safe!

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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Prevent Dementia from Head Trauma - Protect Your Brain!

One serious cause of dementia, which is frequently overlooked and can often be avoided, is head trauma.  Although it may already be too late to go back and change things if someone has suffered a past concussion while playing sports or as a result of a car accident, it isn't too late to take measures to avoid future brain damage. Even if you have experienced a concussion in the past, you still need to do everything possible to prevent another one in the future.  The more concussions you have in a lifetime, the higher your risk of dementia caused by brain trauma.

Your first steps in avoiding brain trauma are to get a check-up from your doctor, and then take a close look at your home. Below are the things you need to evaluate in order to lower your risk of falling.  In this way, you can reduce your risk of brain trauma and a major cause of dementia.

Check Your Physical Health

Get your eyes checked - Ignoring vision problems could put you at increased risk of tripping and falling, or banging your head on something you did not see because of limited peripheral vision.

Get treated for episodes of vertigo - Some medications may cause vertigo or dizziness. It can also be caused by vision problems and other health conditions.  Discuss these episodes with your physician, especially if they have caused you to fall or nearly fall.

Ask your doctor about medication related health problems - In addition to vertigo, some medications may cause sleepiness, nausea, sleep walking, sudden drops in blood pressure, muscle weakness, dehydration, and other conditions which could make you more prone to falling.  If a medication is causing uncomfortable side effects, check with your doctor to see if it can be changed.

Take a fall prevention class - Weak muscles and poor balance can often be improved when seniors take classes designed to improve their sense of balance.  People who have strong muscles are also more likely to be able to catch themselves when they stumble, thereby preventing a fall.  Many senior centers and city recreation departments offer these types of classes for senior citizens.  Not only could a class like this prevent brain trauma, it could also protect you from breaking a hip or other bone.

Get regular exercise - In addition to a fall prevention class, it is important that you walk regularly, and get other forms of exercise, including strength and flexibility training. Being strong and flexible will also help you stay on your feet when you trip. Practice lifting your feet a little when you walk.  One cause of tripping is the tendency to barely lift our feet above the surface as we age. This can cause us to trip over even tiny imperfections in a sidewalk or other surface.

Wear the right shoes - If you have neuropathy in your feet, it could lead to a fall. Talk to your doctor about any possible causes or treatments for your neuropathy. Other foot problems, including wearing the wrong shoes, could also cause you problems.  One precaution you can take is to wear suitable shoes which are non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled and lace-up.  Make sure they fully support your feet.

Use recommended walking devices - Whether your physician suggests you use a cane or a walker, it is important to take advantage of these tools.  Many people fall because they are too proud to let others see them use one of these devices.  However, it is better to lose your pride, than fall and damage your brain, hip or other part of your body.

Check Your Home for Hazards

Once you know that you have done as much as possible to maintain your physical health, you then need to make sure your home is safe.  Look around carefully and ask yourself the following questions as you walk around.

Throughout your home - Are the main areas of your home free from extension cords and rugs which could trip you?  Are the rooms well lit?  Is it easy to find the light switch if you enter a room after dark?

Kitchen - Can you reach your dishes and other items you use regularly without standing on a stool? If you ever need to use a stool to stand on, do you have a sturdy one which is safe and solid?

Bedroom -  Are your phone, lamp and alarm clock easy to reach so you do not have to jump out of bed in the dark?  Do you have a nightlight which makes it easier to find your way to the bathroom in the dark?

Bathroom - Does your bathtub or shower have a non-skid surface, or have you added a mat, non-skid decals or abrasive strips so you are less likely to slip in the shower?  Do you have sturdy grab bars in the shower and near the toilet?  Do you have a non-skid bathroom floor which does not get slippery when wet?

Stairs - Do you have light switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs? Can you clearly see the outline of the steps so you are less likely to miss one?  Do the stairs have sturdy handrails on each side?  Are the steps in good repair without holes, uneven treads, or loose covering? Do you have access to a chair lift if the stairs become too much for you to handle?

Entrances - Are the entrances to your homes well lit so no one needs to approach in the dark?  You may want to consider having a motion detector attached to the outdoor lights in both the front and back of your home.  The light will come on as soon as someone approaches the door.  This will make it safer for both you and your guests.  In addition, are the stairs and sidewalks approaching your door in good repair, with no uneven surfaces or broken stones?

In Case of a Fall

If, despite your best efforts, you still fall, getting medical attention quickly can help limit the damage you have done.  If you hit your head, do not got to bed without being checked by a doctor first, especially if you are knocked unconscious or you are dizzy or have a headache after the fall.  Have someone drive you to the emergency room or an urgent care center, if there is any risk that you may have a concussion.

Whenever you are home by yourself, it may be wise to constantly carry a cell phone in your pocket during the day, and keep it on your nightstand at night, or you may consider getting a medical alert pendant with fall monitoring. (Ad) These pendants enable you to push a button and be put in touch with an operator who can call a neighbor, a family member, or the paramedics, depending on your need.  Some devices can even automatically detect when you fall and, if you do not get up in a short period of time, it will place a call for you.  A device like this could save your life and should be seriously considered by anyone who lives alone.

If you are interested in learning more about common medical issues as you age, where to retire, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional useful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Death from Falls Can Be Prevented
In 2013, an estimated 25,464 senior citizens died from a fall.  Approximately 2.5 million more were injured.  Of those, 734,000 people required hospitalization.  Shockingly, one in three adults over the age of 65 will experience a fall every year and a significant of them will suffer serious injuries, including broken hips or head trauma.  Medical costs for falling amount to over $30 billion a year.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that these numbers may double in the next five years as our population ages.  In addition, falls are also a major reason for emergency room visits for people in the 45 to 64 age group, so problems are not limited only to those in the 65 and over age group.

Researchers have studied this problem extensively and they have discovered that certain programs are effective in preventing falls.  However, there is virtually no government support for these programs, which means they are not always available in the communities where they are needed.  When they are available, the programs are usually sponsored by local hospitals, community groups and agencies.

Even if you do not believe you are at risk of falling, accidents can happen to anyone.  In addition, you may have a spouse or other family member who could be injured from a fall.  Everyone should be aware of the causes and how to reduce the risk.

Why Senior Citizens Fall

There are a number of reasons why people fall, regardless of their age ... although the problems associated with falling are more serious in senior citizens.  Some of the more common causes are:

Inner-ear Problems
Diabetes - Particularly for those who suffer from Neuropathy
Illnesses that cause patients to feel weak, dizzy or shaky
Medications - People should be especially concerned about sleeping medications or those that lower blood pressure or cause dizziness

How to Prevent Falls

Fortunately, there are steps everyone can take to dramatically lower their risk of falling.  Below are some suggestions you can implement yourself.

Attend the CDC program called "Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries" (STEADI).  Contact your local hospital or senior center to see when a class will be held in your community.

Attend a Balance Training Program.  Many senior centers and communities offer separate balance classes or include balance training in their yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, dance and other exercise classes for seniors.

Practice balance exercises at home including:

* Standing on one leg for 30 seconds at a time
* Walk heel to toe along a straight line on the floor
* Practice sitting and standing from a chair to build leg and core muscle strength

Eliminate or avoid danger zones in your home, especially:

* Potentially icy areas outside your home in cold weather
* Anything in your home or yard that could trip you -- wires, plants, furniture legs, etc.
* Loose rugs or carpeting
* Slippery floors like polished hardwood or wet floors in the bathroom and kitchen

Other ways to reduce falls include:

*  Installing grab bars in your shower or around your bathtub.
*  Giving up your high heels.
*  Having someone move items from high shelves and placing them where they are within easy reach.
*  Avoiding risky behaviors such as climbing on ladders or standing on chairs to reach high items.

Finally, watch your medications and read the package inserts.  Pay close attention to the possibility of falling because of the prescription drugs you are taking.  Many medications can lower your blood pressure and make you dizzy, especially when you first get out of bed in the morning or get up from a chair.  Take things slowly and make sure you feel OK before making any sudden moves.  Talk to your doctor about your dosage levels or ask about alternative medications if one you are taking seems to make you especially dizzy.

If you are interested in learning more about how to take care of your health as you age, where to retire, financial planning or family relationships, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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