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Slips, trips, and near misses: How to keep your balance and reduce the risk of falls

The National Council on Aging annually recognizes the first day of fall, this year September 22, as Fall Prevention Awareness Day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one third of people 65 and older fall each year. Notably, less than half of the Medicare beneficiaries who fell in the previous year talked to their healthcare provider about it.

Sept 2018 Falls Prevention photoHealthy Living workshops from LifePath, such as the one shown here, may help you reduce your risk of falls. The Matter of Balance workshop emphasizes practical coping strategies to manage our fall concerns. The next workshop starts in October. Learn more by contacting the Healthy Living Program at LifePath.While conducting home visits, LifePath case managers and nurses routinely question consumers and their caregivers about recent falls. Sometimes the consumer is reluctant to characterize an event as a fall, describing a “near miss” or, “I tripped but landed in the chair, so it wasn’t a fall.” The individual’s self-definition of what constitutes a fall may impact his or her likelihood of reporting events to medical providers and willingness to consider fall prevention measures.

The Fall Prevention Center of Excellence of the University of Southern California advises: “First a person needs to understand what may put them at risk for falling. Some risks can be reduced. Medical providers can help to identify risks and develop a plan. Specific physical activity can reduce fall risk by increasing balance and mobility skills. Also changes to the home and community environment can reduce hazards and help support a person in completing daily activities. While this is not a comprehensive list of fall prevention strategies, it’s a good place to start.”

Common fall risk factors include: fear of falling or having fallen before, gait and balance problems, use of psychoactive medications, poor vision, muscle weakness, postural dizziness, improper use of mobility devices, home hazards, and chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and incontinence.

The National Council on Aging suggests “6 Steps to Prevent a Fall”:

  1. Find a good balance and exercise program. LifePath offers free Healthy Living workshops, including “A Matter of Balance” fall prevention classes. Call us for more information at 413-773-5555 or toll-free 1-800-732-4636 or click here.
  2. Talk to your healthcare provider. Request a fall risk assessment. Share your history of recent falls, slips, trips, or near misses.
  3. Regularly review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist. Take medications only as prescribed and discuss any troublesome side effects.
  4. Get your vision and hearing checked annually.
  5. Keep your home safe. Improving lighting, removing tripping hazards, and installing grab bars and handrails are important safety measures. The AARP website provides a handy “Caregiving Checklist” for fall prevention measures in and around the home.
  6. Talk to your family members. Enlist the help of family in taking the steps mentioned above.