Today marks the final countdown to the end of the annual Falls Prevention Month, but truly, preventing falls is an issue that should always be uppermost in everyone’s minds. Last week I wrote about a number of things that can impact on your ability to prevent a fall.
Another common variable in falls prevention is your medications and understanding how they might affect your balance. Research has demonstrated that taking three or more medications a day can increase your risk of falling. If you fall into this category, here are a couple of suggestions:
• Have a medication review with your pharmacist every year
• Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist about possible side effects of prescription, over the counter or natural health products
• Read directions carefully so you’re aware of potential reactions with other medications
• Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist if you experience drowsiness, dizziness, unsteadiness or blurred vision.
• Keep an up-to-date list of all your prescription and non-prescription medicines. Take this list to all your medical appointments.
Safety and mobility aids can make your everyday life easier and safer. It is important however to use aids that meet your needs and fit you correctly. Your health care provider can help you choose the right equipment.
A cane or walker can improve your balance as you walk or help you with an injury or disability. Make sure it is the correct height and you know how to use it properly. Non-slip mats, bath seats, and grab bars can help in the tub and shower. Walk-in tubs and devices that slowly lower you into the tub are also available. Find out about other devices that can make your life safer: reachers or grabbers, ice grippers, large-handle utensils, pot/bowl stabilizers, etc.
Despite all the prevention efforts in the world, sometimes bad things still happen. So, if you fall when you are alone, stay calm, do not rush to get up, and take the time to ensure you are not injured before trying to get up.
If you think you can get up:
• Roll onto your side
• Rest while your body and blood pressure adjust.
• Slowly get onto your hands and knees, and crawl to a sturdy chair.
• Put your hands on the chair seat and slide one foot forward so that it is flat on the floor. Keep the other leg bent so the knee is on the floor.
• From this kneeling position, slowly rise and turn your body to sit in the chair.
• Rest for a while before standing up
If you need help to get up, stay calm and try to get help by making a loud noise, calling out for help or crawling to the telephone and dialing 911. Use your personal emergency response system if you have one. Do not exhaust yourself yelling if it is apparent no one is in earshot. Rest and try again after some time has passed.
After any fall, talk with your health care provider about the fall, even if you did not hurt yourself. It is important to determine the cause of your fall and to help prevent another fall. For extra protection, consider the use of a personal emergency response system. Do not let the fear of falling again prevent you from being active. Inactivity creates an even greater risk of falling.