Southwell recognizes National Falls Prevention Month
September 3 — TIFTON — September is Falls Prevention Month, and while falls are a serious public health concern, they are largely preventable.
Falls can happen at any time to people of any age. However, as people age, the likelihood of falls and the severity of injuries increase with age. According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among people age 65 and older. Typically, injuries involve the shoulder, wrist, spine, and hip as well as the pelvis. Falls can also cause serious head injuries.
“There are several steps one can take to help prevent falls,” said Dr. Clint Cawley, orthopedic surgeon at Georgia Sports Medicine. “There are health factors that need to be considered, and there are environmental factors that can be changed. There are things that put you at higher risk of falling, like certain medical conditions and certain habits. It is important to have an annual eye check-up and physical examination which includes an evaluation of heart and blood pressure problems.”
Cawley also recommended taking the following steps to help reduce the risk of falling:
—Check with doctors about side effects of medications and over-the-counter medications, as fatigue or confusion increases the risk of falling;
— Talk to a doctor about starting an exercise program;
—Ensure that all medications are clearly labeled and stored in a well-lit area;
—Keep an up-to-date list of all medications and give it to all the doctors you see;
—Avoid excessive alcohol consumption;
—If possible, participate in an exercise program that promotes agility, strength, balance and coordination, as this can build bone strength and slow the progression of osteoporosis;
—Consider a hobby like cycling or gardening to improve your health and quality of life;
—Maintain a diet with an adequate supply of calcium and vitamin D;
Home or environmental modifications can also help prevent falls. Cawley recommends making sure furniture doesn’t block room entry and exit routes, reducing clutter such as boxes stacked on the floor, and decluttering your hallways and/or stairs. He also suggested securing loose rugs with double-sided tape or non-slip backing and considering getting rid of unnecessary area rugs. An occupational therapist can help you identify such dangers and find solutions to remedy them.
“You should also make sure that all stairs in and around your home have handrails that extend the full length of the stairs,” Cawley said. “Handrails or grab bars in your shower are also a great idea. Lighting is also extremely important, so it’s a good idea to have night lights placed in hallways or frequently traveled walkways. Consider also to have a night light in the bathroom, in addition to making sure there is a clear path to the toilet.”
Cawley recommends keeping things you use regularly, like clothes in a bedroom or dishes in the kitchen, handy. Designated play areas for children at home are also recommended.
“Keep the dedicated play area clean and picked up regularly, so you don’t trip over toys,” Cawley said.
Footwear is an important category for Cawley when it comes to fall prevention.
“It’s very important to wear the right shoes,” Cawley said. “You should choose well-fitting shoes with non-slip soles and avoid high heels. You should also make sure to keep your shoelaces tied and never walk in socks. Replace loose or misshapen slippers. This is also a good idea to immediately clean up all spills such as liquid, grease and food around your home, as a fall can occur due to slippery surfaces, even with proper footwear.”
Falls can be a life-changing event that can lead to loss of mobility or independence in older adults, but Cawley pointed out that so many of them are preventable.
“While you can’t change factors like your age or illnesses that may be contributing to your risk of falling, you can certainly change some of the things I’ve listed before,” Cawley said. “Anything you can do to prevent a fall helps you maintain your independence and continue to live in your own home. Be smart about ways to protect yourself from falls and talk to your doctor about implementing certain ideas that I have already mentioned.”