This Fall, Focus on Preventing Falls – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck

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This fall, do yourself a favor and take the time to focus on preventing falls. We’ve all taken a tumble or a spill here and there, and the truth is, while we sometimes come out unscathed, we can sometimes really hurt ourselves!

We often associate falls with children or the elderly, but the truth is, clumsiness and accidents can affect people of all ages — and if you live with arthritis or a similar condition, your fall could (pardon the pun) have even more impact on your body and your well-being.

Here are some facts and tips about preventing trips and falls, from the minor to the serious — no matter what your age or health situation may be.

  • The risk of falling increases with age.
  • The risk of having a fall is greater for women than for men.
  • A decrease in bone density may contribute to falls and injuries. Many people with arthritis have osteoporosis or osteopenia, so this is something to watch out for.
  • Many people with arthritis and chronic pain don’t exercise enough, whether due to fear or physical inability. According to the University of Colorado, “Failure to exercise regularly results in poor muscle tone, decreased strength, and loss of bone mass and flexibility.” In fact, they go on to say that this is one of the top 3 reasons for falls in the elderly or disabled, and go on to offer the following suggestions:”Failure to exercise regularly results in poor muscle tone, decreased strength, and loss of bone mass and flexibility. All contribute to falls and the severity of injury due to falls.

    Prevention Tips

    • Engage regularly (e.g., every other day for about 15 minutes daily) in exercise designed to increase muscle and bone strength, and to improve balance and flexibility. Many people enjoy walking and swimming.
    • Undertake daily activities in a safe manner, such as reaching and bending properly, taking time to recover balance when rising from a chair or bed, learning the proper way to fall, and learning how to recover after a fall.
    • Wear proper fitting, supportive shoes with low heels or rubber soles.”
  • Know the side effects of all medications that you are taking. Some may cause dizziness, lightheadedness, or even cause you to faint.
  • The University of Colorado also states that “At least one-third of all falls in the elderly involve environmental hazards in the home. The most common hazard for falls is tripping over objects on the floor. Other factors include poor lighting, loose rugs, lack of grab bars or poorly located/mounted grab bars, and unsturdy furniture.” Tips they offer are as follows:

“It is useful to conduct a walk-through of your home to identify possible problems that may lead to falling. A home visit by an interior designer or occupational therapist might also be useful in that they are trained to identify risk factors and recommend appropriate actions.

Outdoors

  • Repair cracks and abrupt edges of sidewalks and driveways.
  • Install handrails on stairs and steps.
  • Remove high doorway thresholds Trim shrubbery along the pathway to the home.
  • Keep walk areas clear of clutter, rocks and tools.
  • Keep walk areas clear of snow and ice.
  • Install adequate lighting by doorways and along walkways leading to doors.

All Living Spaces

  • Use a change in color to denote changes in surface types or levels.
  • Secure rugs with nonskid tape as well as carpet edges.
  • Avoid throw rugs.
  • Remove oversized furniture and objects.
  • Have at least one phone extension in each level of the home and post. emergency numbers at each phone.
  • Add electrical outlets.
  • Reduce clutter.
  • Check lighting for adequate illumination and glare control.
  • Maintain nightlights or motion-sensitive lighting throughout home.
  • Use contrast in paint, furniture and carpet colors.
  • Install electronic emergency response system if needed.

Bathrooms

  • Install grab bars on walls around the tub and beside the toilet, strong enough to hold your weight.
  • Add nonskid mats or appliques to bathtubs.
  • Mount liquid soap dispenser on the bathtub-wall.
  • Install a portable, hand-held shower head.
  • Add a padded bath or shower seat.
  • Install a raised toilet seat if needed.
  • Use nonskid mats or carpet on floor surfaces that may get wet.

Kitchen

  • Keep commonly used items within easy reach.
  • Use a sturdy step stool when you need something from a high shelf.
  • Make sure appliance cords are out of the way.
  • Avoid using floor polish or wax in order to reduce slick surfaces.

Living, Dining and Family Rooms

  • Keep electrical and telephone cords out of the way.
  • Arrange furniture so that you can easily move around it (especially low coffee tables).
  • Make sure chairs and couches are easy to get in and out of.
  • Remove caster wheels from furniture.
  • Use television remote control and cordless phone.

Bedroom

  • Put in a bedside light with a switch that is easy to turn on and off (or a touch lamp).
  • Have a nightlight.
  • Locate telephone within reach of bed.
  • Adjust height of bed to make it easy to get in and out of.
  • Have a firm chair, with arms, to sit and dress.

Stairways, Hallways and Pathways

  • Keep free of clutter
  • Make sure carpet is secured and get rid of throw rugs.
  • Install tightly fastened hand rails running the entire length and along both sides of stairs.
  • Handrails should be 34 inches high and have a diameter of about 1.5 inches.
  • Apply brightly colored tape to the face of the steps to make them more visible.
  • Optimal stair dimensions are 7.2 inch riser heights with either an 11 or 12 inch tread width.
  • Have adequate lighting in stairways, hallways and pathways, with light switches placed at each end.”
  • According to the Arthritis Foundation, “According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 5.8 million adults over age 65 reported that they fell at least once during the previous three months. About five percent of them had to seek medical attention or restrict their activities due to their falls. Among people 65 years and older, falls are the leading cause of injuries, hospital trauma admissions  and injury deaths. As the U.S. population ages, the cost of falls is expected to reach $43.8 billion by 2020, according to the CDC.”
  • Arthriving.com suggests, “Learn how to properly get up after a fall. You can ask your doctor or physical therapist for a “cheat sheet” or some helpful tips tailored to your particular physical condition. Getting up improperly could worsen the injury.”
  • They also suggest to “Consider subscribing to a home security or personal care service in case you fall or have other emergencies while home alone.”

Falling can be unnerving no matter who you are, especially if you suffer an injury as a result of that fall.

So every fall, let’s make it a point to remind ourselves to “fall-proof” our homes, and to prepare for the winter which could lead to icy steps and other hazards.

Hopefully, you will not fall, but if you do take a spill, the following graphic may be able to serve as a guide and help you:

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Good luck, and may you have a happy autumn season!

Stay Well,

Ashley Boynes-Shuck

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One thought on “This Fall, Focus on Preventing Falls – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck

  1. I am 15 and in middle school well when I was walking out of the building there was a curb so I choose to jump off and I landed on my butt because my knees just gave out on me. everyone saw me and nobody at school knows I have jra so nobody helped me so I sat there tell someone walking by helped me. I was so embarrassed .I have jra all throw out my body head to toe :/

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