Staying on Your Feet
by John J. Kelly, DO, associate chair Department of Emergency Medicine, Einstein Healthcare Network
National Fall Prevention Week (September 22-28) is a time to remind all of us, the clumsy, unlucky and sure-footed alike, that falls (and the consequences of falls) are preventable. It’s a message that is particularly important to share with senior citizens, who may let the fear of falling keep them from enjoying life.
While it’s a logical fear (unintentional falls are the leading cause of accidental death, injuries and trips to the Emergency Department for the elderly), there are ways for seniors to stay safe without having to stay at home. (Plus, staying active is important for overall health.)
Here’s some advice from the National Institutes of Health to help keep older adults on their feet, and participating in their hobbies, activities and communities. (See more NIH information on fall prevention.)
- Stay physically active. Regular exercise makes you stronger and keep joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible (around 150 minutes a week)
- Have your eyes and hearing tested. (And if you need glasses or a hearing aid, use them!)
- Check medicine for side effects that could make you sleepy or dizzy.
- Get enough sleep.
- Limit alcohol as it impacts balance.
- Stand up slowly. (Getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop.)
- Use an assistive device if you need help feeling steady when you walk. (And keep it with you!)
- Be very careful when walking on wet or icy surfaces.
- Wear non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes.
- If you have even a minor fall, tell your doctor. (They can help diagnose a cause)
- Get your calcium and vitamin D. (While this won’t necessarily prevent falls, it could make the difference between picking yourself up, or being picked up by an ambulance due to a broken hip or wrist!)
If You Do Fall
- Stay calm. Stay on the floor/ground and take a few breaths to get over the shock of falling.
- Decide if you are hurt before getting up.
- If you can get up, roll over onto your side. Rest again while your body and blood pressure adjust. Slowly get up on your hands and knees, and crawl to a sturdy chair.
- If you cannot get up on your own, as someone for help or call 911.
- *Keep a cell phone with you, even while moving around your home. (A cell phone or a medical response system like bracelet will make it easier to get help.)