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Fall prevention for the elderly: 3 safety tips

The statistics on falls among the elderly are startling. Every second of every day, somewhere in America, it happens. An older person falls down and often gets hurt.

For many who fall, the injuries start a downward spiral that becomes difficult or even impossible to reverse.

What can you do to protect against this happening to you or someone close to you? Here are three helpful fall-prevention tips.

Develop a fall-prevention plan.

Loss of muscle mass and agility later in life is relentless, raising the risk of falls even among seniors who stay active. Side effects from medications also often undermine balance and contribute to fall risk.

Health care providers therefore encourage older Americans to develop a fall-prevention plan. To get started, talk with your primary care doctor to identify health conditions likely to lead to a fall. Many older adults have specific medical conditions affecting mobility, such as Parkinson's disease or Meniere's disease.

Your doctor may also adjust medications whose side effects include dizziness, fatigue or a negatively impact on your ability to think clearly.

Stay active.

As obvious as this tip is, it is worth repeating and trying hard to put into practice. Being active will help you maintain strength and your sense of balance -- making falls less likely.

Engaging in physical exercise can put you at risk of injury if you aren't careful. Activities such as walking and water-workouts, however, are gentle on the body and help to maintain strength and flexibility among the aging.

Having questions and concerns about what type of exercise is appropriate for you is understandable. A professional such as a trainer or physical therapist can help you design a customized program.

Be proactive about using assistive devices and minimizing home hazards.

Sometimes the severity of certain health conditions requires the use of assistive devices to prevent falls. Adapting your home to minimize falling hazards is also important.

For example, for someone with significant muscle weakness, numbness and lack of coordination, using a walker or a cane helps to maintain balance.

Similarly, installing items such as grab bars in the shower or a raised toilet seat can help protect against falls in the home. If those actions don't seem sufficient to mitigate the risk, an occupational therapist can identify additional options.

It's also important to arrange your home to minimize hazards from loose rugs and poorly placed furniture or household items.

Facing reality

The tips in this post are by no means an exclusive list. We will continue to elaborate in future posts because ultimately fall prevention for the elderly requires constant vigilance.

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