As we age, we often worry about being able to stay in our homes. We dread the day when we won’t be able to make our own decisions, risk of falling, or when we’ll need to rely on other people. We fear losing control over our life. In fact, studies show that many seniors fear losing their independence more than they fear dying.
Does this sound like you, or someone you love? Then you’re in the right place.
You don’t need to feel hopeless. Rather than stewing in our anxiety about an uncertain future, we can be proactive. Avoiding that loss of independence means being diligent about preventing injuries. There are plenty of strategies that you can embrace to improve your safety.
Of course, it’s not always possible to control whether we experience illness or injury. Yet, we can empower ourselves to take concrete action and try to change our outcomes. In this post, we’ll share with you five simple lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of falling. Your future self will be grateful when you start today.
Note: Nothing in this post constitutes medical advice. Always speak to a qualified medical professional.
Move your body
You might feel tempted to be cautious while moving if you want to avoid falling and getting hurt. However, movement actually serves as an important tool for injury prevention. By engaging in regular exercise, you can help reduce your risk of falling, ensuring that you can stay healthy and independent in your home for longer.
When you work on boosting your strength and flexibility, you are giving your body the skills and capacity to stay safe while moving around. Exercise can also help you improve your balance and coordination which are key to preventing a fall.
Appropriate exercise will look different for everyone, depending on your abilities and limitations.
The Mayo Clinic provides helpful suggestions for possible activities, such as walking, water workouts, and gentle practices like tai chi. They note that If you’re concerned about your safety while exercising, you can ask your doctor for recommendations for ready-made exercise programs. If you want stronger guidance, you can ask for a referral to a physical therapist who can work with you more closely.
Get your eyes and ears checked
Hearing loss can affect your ability to safely navigate the world around you. According to NYC Health, problems in the inner ear can make you feel dizzy, increasing your likelihood of falling. Not to mention, when you’re concentrating harder in order to hear, you’re exhausting your body’s ability to multitask while walking around. Hearing loss can affect your balance because both of the systems that affect your hearing and balance rely on the vestibulocochlear nerve to communicate with your brain.
Here’s a shocking statistic. A 25-decibel hearing loss triples your chance of falling if you’re between the ages of 40 to 69. Beyond getting your ears checked, you can support your balance by protecting your ears from damage. Small habits can help you avoid hearing loss in the first place, like earplugs when you’re in a loud environment.
Additionally, when it comes to your eyes, age-related vision changes can make it difficult to move around safely. Your poor eyesight might make it harder for your eyes to focus properly. With low vision, your eyes may not be able to view distinct edges of objects either. It’s also possible that you won’t notice when lights are too bright or perceive the distance of objects around you. As a result, your fall and injury risk gets higher.
By scheduling regular medical appointments, you can monitor, and possibly prevent, hearing or vision loss. You can also work with your healthcare providers to find solutions to address existing health issues, like updating your prescription or trying out hearing aids.
Learn about your medications
There are many reasons a person experiences limited mobility as they age. It might be directly caused by an illness’s symptoms or a side effect of dehydration. In other cases, you might be taking medications that can cause feelings of dizziness.
Many medications can make you feel lightheaded, and less alert. Some medications have well-known side effects that increase a person’s risk of falling, particularly ones that suppress the central nervous system or treat hypertension. Often, these medications can also affect how you move and your reaction time.
It’s never advisable to stop taking a medication cold-turkey or without a doctor’s consultation. These medications are often incredibly necessary for our health. If you’re concerned about side effects, you can speak to your doctor and pharmacist about how to proceed. They can provide advice on how to mitigate your risk.
Improve your sleep quality
Experts say that most seniors should sleep for about 7.5 hours at night. Yet when we get older, we don’t get as much of the high-quality deep sleep that we need to function optimally. Poor sleep can lead to a higher risk of falling because when we don’t sleep well, we can experience impaired balance and cognitive ability. Poor sleep can also influence our reaction time, memory, and ability to be vigilant about our surroundings.
We can take steps to improve our sleep quality. The Saskatchewan Health Authority suggests tips like:
- Creating a sleep routine. This includes establishing a routine both at bedtime and when you wake up!
- Cueing our bodies to sleep well, by creating a calming atmosphere in our bedroom that’s quiet, dark, and cool.
- Engaging in relaxing behaviours before bed, and avoiding activities that keep us awake. That includes putting away our overstimulating phones and tablets! We also should make sure we don’t consume any caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
Be mindful when you are bathing
The bathroom can be one of the most dangerous places in your home. A study from the CDC showed that each year, about 235,000 people seek care at the emergency room due to bathroom-related injuries.
You can mitigate your risk by storing your essential shower items in a reachable location. No more twisting your body or exiting the tub to get your shampoo or body wash! It’s also crucial to keep your bathroom clean and dry, to ensure that your surfaces aren’t slippery.
Now, be honest with us. if you use a mobility aid, have you ever brought it into the shower with you? Often, seniors and people with disabilities shower with their crutches or canes. This decision makes sense because you want to feel safe, secure, and stable.
However, did you know that if you get your mobility aids wet, it can INCREASE your risk of falling while bathing? Most mobility aids aren’t designed for the slippery environment of the shower. Instead, you can make simple design changes to your bathroom to ensure a more secure bathing experience.
You don’t have to undergo an expensive and lengthy renovation to make your bathroom more accessible. We can help you modify your bathtub and transform it into a step-in shower – within no time at all. We also can install grab bars that provide you with more stability and support.
Interested in remodelling your home to create a comfortable and safe home? We recently posted a blog post with ideas to consider: How to Make a Comfortable and Safe Home for Seniors.