Senior Health

What You Should Do to Prevent Falls

Editor’s note: Falls are common among older people – and can have devastating consquences. Each year, more than 1.6 million older U.S. adults go to emergency departments for fall-related injuries, according to SeniorHealth, a division of the National Institutes of Health. For older adults, falls are the number one cause of fractures, hospital admissions for trauma, loss of independence, and injury deaths. They can lead to hospital stays and disability as well.

Here, SeniorHealth experts share what you can do to prevent falls.

The Right Shoes

Sensible footwear can help prevent falls. The SeniorHealth experts recommend that you choose shoes that have low heels and non-slip soles. They should fit well without being tight – there should be no marks when you take off your shoes and socks.

Don’t go barefoot, and avoid backless shoes in favor of footwear that completely surrounds your foot.

According to the SeniorHealth experts, you should choose non-slip soles rather than smooth soles, which can cause you to slip on waxed or polished floors.

Devices to Help Prevent Falls

The SeniorHealth experts say that the appropriate use of “assistive devices” can help prevent harmful falls. Devices include canes, walkers and reachers. Talk with an occupational or physical therapist about what might be right for you; these therapists can also train you to use a device correctly.

Here are some guidelines:

Canes A cane or walker may help you feel more stable when you walk, the SeniorHealth experts say. Some canes are adjustable; others are not. Some canes have grips made of foam or that fit the shape of your hand.

When you are using a cane, the SeniorHealth experts say, your elbow should be slightly bent. A cane that is too short can make you unsteady, while a cane that’s too long may be difficult to use. Be sure the length fits you well. Your elbow should be slightly bent. A cane that’s too short may make you unsteady. Once you find a cane that fits, you A cane that’s too long is harder to use. If you use a cane, be sure to learn how to walk with it the right way. A physical therapist can help.

Walkers A walker will help you stay balanced by giving you a wide base of support, the SeniorHealth experts say. Be sure to choose a walker that fits you and gives a level of stability that is best for you.

Some walkers have two wheels so the walker shouldn’t roll away from you. These walkers work well if you need to put weight on the walker when you move. Other walkers have four wheels and brakes for going down inclines.

Reachers A reacher, or grabber, can also help prevent falls. It lets you take lightweight items from high shelves and other places and pick up objects from the floor so you don’t have to bend over.

Portable Phones The SeniorHealth experts recommend that you carry the phone with you from room to room, so you won’t rush to answer it, risking a fall. Additionally, don’t rush to answer the door or a phone. Your health is more important than keeping someone waiting.

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