Healthy Aging: Preventing Falls

As we enter our “golden years,” we look forward to things like traveling, visiting with our children and grandchildren, and enjoying the “good life.” None of us want to think about falling, yet, the risk of falling starts to limit what people feel they can do. If you are experiencing that uneasy feeling that your balance is not as good as it once was, have sensations of light headedness, unsteadiness on your feet or feel like your spinning, you could be developing a decline in your balance.

Balance is a complex system of the body that requires the coordination of many body parts including your eyes, ears, muscles, joints and your brain to let you know where you are in space. We are programmed to maintain an upright posture with our feet on the earth and our head in the air. As we age or have a disease or injury occur we may have difficulty with one or more of these body parts that puts a monkey wrench into the system. But as disturbing as that may be, our brain and body has an ability to be retrained as we are constantly evolving as a human organism. Falls in the United States accounts for 300,000 injuries. Two out of every three people who fall, will fall again within six months. Falls increase with age and with lack of activity. Many falls simply come as an accident from tripping over an object or miss stepping. As we look around our homes, there are things we can do to prevent falls even if we do not have a balance problem.

A close study of your environment with the thought of making some changes can lower the risk of falls:

  • Clean up! Move items you can trip over, like papers and shoes, from stairs and other high traffic areas. Put items you frequently use within reach, so that you don’t have to stand on step stools, chairs, or ladders.
  • Grab it! Install grab bars next to the toilet, tub and shower, don’t rely on a towel rack! Be sure hand rails on stairways are not loose.
  • Light up! Buy brighter lights for stairways and walkways. Hang shades or light weight curtains to reduce glare. Have your vision checked every year. Night lights are essential for good balance, so have one in the bathroom or put on the overhead light.
  • Secure it! Either remove small throw rugs, or secure them to the floor with double-sided tape or a non-skid backing. Use non-slip mats in your tub or shower.
  • Lace up! Wear shoes in and around your house, and don’t go around barefoot or in socks. Make sure your slippers have a non-slip surface on the bottom and do not wear slippers outside. And, while you have those shoes on, take a little walk, to keep yourself fit and healthy.
  • Balance it! Attend a balance class, offered by the Winter Haven Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at the Gill Jones Building. A therapist will educate you on the balance system and discuss reasons for decline and how to regain better balance. Click here to see information on the time and place.

Most of us don’t really think about rehabilitation until we need it. The Rehabilitation Services of Winter Haven Hospital are here if you need us. Our Outpatient Rehabilitation Center is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Our team of professionals is ready to help. Give us a call at (863) 292-4061.