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Every month should be Fall Prevention Month

8 tips to help reduce your risk of falling
By Dr. Rhonda Collins

Revera was the first company to appoint a Chief Medical Officer in the Canadian senior living sector. In her blog series, Dr. Rhonda Collins offers helpful advice for seniors and their families to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

November is Falls Prevention Month, though I think it should be every month because the consequences associated with falls can change an older adult’s life.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, falls are the leading cause of injury among Canadians over the age of 65, and the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations in this age group. Not only are falls common – an estimated one in three people over the age of 65 fall each year – but the fear of falling is also common. Just over one third of older Canadians have a fear of falling and 44% of those people reported that their fear had led them to stop participating in some of the activities that they enjoy, like shopping, exercise and spending time with friends.

“Exercise is important for our overall health, but exercise programs can also improve strength and balance, which can help to reduce falls.”

Falls happen for a number of reasons. First, there are the physical reasons: as we age, we can experience changes in our vision, hearing and balance as well as reduced strength in our muscles that can result in falls. Common diseases like diabetes, thyroid disease, arthritis and heart disease can also contribute to falls. Even things like constipation or bladder conditions can increase your risk of falls.

Secondly, there are hazards in our environment that certainly make falls more likely: rain, snow, ice, uneven ground, scatter rugs, electrical cords, clutter, poor lighting and improper footwear.

Finally, there are a lot of common medications can cause drowsiness, confusion, dizziness or poor balance and any of these can lead to falls.

Here are some tips to help prevent falls:

  • Talk to your doctor:
    • Make sure to report if you have had a fall, have had feelings of dizziness or light-headedness, especially when standing up. They also need to know if you’ve had pain, bowel or bladder problems, changes in your feet (like bunions, ingrown toenails, feelings of numbness).
    • Our bodies change as we age and sometimes our bodies can no longer tolerate certain medications. This can increase your risk of falls. Ask your doctor if any of your medications are putting you at risk and if they can be reduced or stopped.
  • Get your vision and hearing checked regularly
  • Stay active. Exercise is important for our overall health, but exercise programs can also improve strength and balance, which can help to reduce falls.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol affects balance and reflexes and can increase your risk of hip fractures from falls.
  • Take your time when standing up. Our blood pressure can drop when we stand up too quickly causing dizziness and falls. If you have had this feeling, tell your doctor so they can check your blood pressure when you’re lying down and standing up.
  • Low-heeled, well-fitting shoes and boots with anti-slip soles are very important, especially in the ice and snow. In the house, wear slippers with backs and non-slip soles and do not walk on stairs or floors in socks.
  • Use hand rails and grab bars to maintain balance and if it has been recommended, use a walker or cane.
  • Declutter and repair: tripping hazards include cracks in sidewalks and driveways, snow and ice, poor lighting, clutter, throw rugs and electrical cords. Removing or fixing these things and adding nightlights in every room can help to prevent trips and falls.
Dr. Rhonda Collins, Chief Medical Officer of Revera
By Dr. Rhonda Collins
Dr. Rhonda Collins brings passion and expertise in memory care, dementia, falls prevention and clinical quality improvement to the role of Revera’s Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Collins is a family physician with a certificate of added competence in Care of the Elderly from the College of Family Physicians of Canada.