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Breaking news for seniors: You can avoid falls… in the FALL

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Eric M. Crozier, Copywright 2011

Geriatric Care Manager

 The changing season is a great time to remind our seniors of the risks of falls. We know that falls can happen at any time, and anywhere, so let’s look at a few steps we can take to minimize those risks.

1)      Be aware of the changing weather. In the fall and winter, our climate is apt to be wet and slippery. When heading out of the home for errands or activities, be sure to have the appropriate shoes that offer traction when walking on sidewalks, pavement, and especially when going up or down hills. Ladies, if you are worried about how sneakers will look with a dressier outfit, than bring your dress shoes along, and switch once inside where it’s dry.

2)      Evaluate your home for lighting and obstacles- especially for at night.  Fall brings the dusk and darkness on earlier and it’s a good idea to make sure that if you are prone to getting up in the night for a glass of water, trip to the bathroom, or get that midnight snack your doctor warned you about, then making sure you have a safe path is vital to minimizing the risk for falls. Check to see if nightlights are appropriate to illuminate the halls or that you can reach the light switches easily. It’s equally important that any floor clutter and area rugs be cleared. This is good practice in general, but especially when tip-toeing through the house at night.

3)      Powered mobility equipment is your ally.  Powered wheelchairs and scooters may be appropriate for many people. As we age, our physical changes and muscle weakness raise the risk for falls. A senior with aches, pains, muscle weakness and overall mobility changes, should consider be evaluated for using mobility equipment. Often times, the evaluations and equipment are covered by insurance. Talk with your local AgingOptions™ care coordinator or home health provider about these options.

4)      Area rugs are lovely, but risky. Area rugs are a known instigator for falls. They are utilized for adding color to a room as well as concealing holes or stains on the carpet. But they also create a big risk as they can catch toes, tips of canes as well as walkers. And too many times I have seen the popular “lift my walker over the area rug” technique only to find they still stumble and sometimes fall. Simply taking them out of a room is an easy fix. When the area rugs are on a smooth, hard surface, they can be particularly slippery. Even some of the rugs with the “nonslip” backing, can in fact, slip.

5)      Oxygen tubing can take the wind out of you. In several cases I have been amazed at the agility of my clients. Seeing them navigate stairs and hallways while dragging oxygen tubing around naturally conjures up images of “I’ve fallen and can’t get up”. If you are using home oxygen, work with your provider to be sure you have the appropriate length of tubing and placement of the room-air concentrator.

Try as we may, we can only mitigate the risks for falls.. Take the time to slow down, be prepared for the risk, and take advantage of services and products that can help you stay on your feet.

Cheers all and let’s make a goal for no falls… in the fall.

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