by Margaret Martin
Aside from balance training, there are many things that you can do to protect yourself from a fall. Below you will find a series of questions and suggested actions to reduce your risk of a fall.
Do you currently experience slips, trips, near falls or falls?
Have an assessment from your primary care physician and/or physical therapist (physiotherapist) to help you determine the cause of your slips, trips, and falls.
Do you have difficulty keeping your balance?
Begin a balance training program suited to you.
Do you experience episodes of dizzy?
Have an assessment by your doctor to determine the cause of your dizziness. Dizziness caused by benign positional vertigo (BPV) can be easily treated. You should seek out a physical therapist (physiotherapist) trained in vestibular rehabilitation.
Do you have foot problems?
See a physical therapist (physiotherapist) trained in foot conditions, a foot specialist, podiatrist or a certified pedorthist to have your feet looked after. These practitioners will be able to recommended orthotics or footwear that is best suited to your feet.
Do you have weak muscles?
Begin the strength training program that is suited to you.
Do you have stiff muscles/joints?
Begin the flexibility exercises that address your tight areas.
Do you have incontinence or have to rush to the bathroom?
Contact your doctor to determine the cause of your incontinence. You may benefit from training with a physical therapist (physiotherapist) trained in urinary incontinence problems.
Do you have vision problems?
Speak with an eye doctor to ensure you are doing all you can to optimize your vision. You should also always keep your home well lit.
Do you have hearing difficulties?
Speak with an audiologist to ensure you are doing all you can to optimize your hearing.
Do you have difficulty sleeping?
After you have ruled out possible medical problems with your primary care physician, you can try any of the following suggestions:
Do you walk in places that are uneven, slippery or icy?
If you are not comfortable with doing this yourself, you can contact a community agency that conducts home safety inspections and repairs.
Do you forget to regularly check the safety hazards around the house?
Work with your primary care physician to ensure that your illness is managed as best as possible.
Do you suffer from a chronic illness such as arthritis or heart disease? an alternative route or avoid uneven paths or icy weather.
Do you take three or more medications?
Be sure to keep a list of all your medications whenever you are speaking with your primary care physician or pharmacist. Both the type and number of medications your on could increase your risk for a fall. Antidepressants, psychotropics, and sedatives/hypnotic drugs increase your risk of falling far more than other medication. Be sure to take extra caution if you are on any of these.
Do you have loose carpet, throw rugs, slippery/highly-polished floors, cords/wires/toys, have cluttered furnishing or any other obstructions on the floor?
A throw rug is not worth the fall that it may cause you. Replace all loose rugs with rubber-backed carpets that stay where you put them. Instruct your children/grandchildren to pick up any toys when they are finished with them. Ensure that you have uncluttered walkways, hallways, and rooms. None of the “stuff” that is cluttering your house is worth the cost of a fall!
Do you have unstable chairs and/or beds that are too high or too low?
Do an inventory of all your furnishings that could put you at risk and if you cannot have it repaired, then get rid of it/them. Your bed height is optimal when you can sit at the edge of it and your feet touch the floor and your knees are level or slightly higher than your hip height.
Do you have dimly lit rooms or corridors?
Consider replacing your current bulbs with higher wattage bulbs (there are great energy efficient bulbs that provide a clean white light) or have more lights installed.
Do you live in a community with traffic lights that do not allow sufficient time to cross the street? Speak to your city councilor or mayor about the traffic lights in question. If you find that they change too fast, then it is likely that many others feel the same way as well!
Do you wear high-heeled shoes or poorly fitting shoes? Do you wear non-slip shoes?
Proper footwear is essential and non-slip shoes can significantly improve your stability as you walk. Consider them a must!
Do you have trouble doing any of your daily chores?
You may find that after several weeks of starting the exercises suited for you that your daily chores get easier as well. If not, speak with your primary care physician about the possibility of having an occupational therapy assessment. There are hundreds of tips and tools that are available to make your life safer and more comfortable.
Do you have steps and walkways leading to your house or apartment that are not in good repair?
Your main entrance is key to your safety. Ensure that it is clear, railings are sturdy and steps are stable and not too high. You must remember that you use this space frequently.
Do you have stairs and walkways that have the potential of being covered with snow, ice or leaves?
Keep a broom, small shovel and ice melting pellets in close proximity to your main entrance. That way they’ll always be there when you need them and it will remind you to keep the area fall proof–not only for yourself but for your visitors.
Do you have stairs and walkways that do not provide good traction?
Speak to the staff at your local hardware store and ask them their recommendations based on the climate and surface you're dealing with. There are many quick, low-cost solutions.
Do you have a solid handrail on both sides of the railing?
If you are not comfortable with installing handrails yourself, you can contact a community agency that conducts home safety inspections and repairs.