By Julie Wiekamp, MPAS, PA-C
Have you ever fallen? Were you able to get up after the fall, or did you have to call for help? Did you break any bones? Unfortunately, too many of us struggle with these questions. Not only do falls cause pain and injury, but they are the reason many leave their homes in search of nursing home care. Thankfully, there are many measures available to help prevent falls in the home and keep you on your feet.
Exercise is known to improve balance. Certain exercises, like tai chi, can be especially helpful in strengthening muscles and preventing falls. Many gyms and community centers have classes that specialize in balance training. Physical therapy is another option. Many physical therapists specialize in balance training and will customize exercises for your specific needs.
There are a variety of medical reasons why you may be prone to fall. First, acute illness must be ruled out as a possible cause. Even a urinary tract infection can cause one to feel unsteady, dizzy or a little “off.” It is important to check labs and blood pressures. Medications may need to be adjusted. Many chronic neurologic disorders affect gait as well. It is always a good idea to discuss balance difficulties with your health care provider and seek out any identifiable cause.
Adjustments to make your home safer are also a good idea. Occupational therapists will often come into the house and make suggestions regarding fall risk. Moving rugs out of the way, using nonslip bathmats, and adjusting handrails are just a few of the ways to make your home safer. Keeping a well lit home also prevents falls.
One can not underestimate the importance of good shoes! Make sure socks, shoes and braces fit well. Foot and ankle arthritis should not be dismissed. If left unchecked, it will certainly affect mobility.
Canes and walkers, if used correctly, may help prevent falls and provide support when walking.
Poor vision is sometimes the cause of falls. It is important to have routine eye exams. Well fitting glasses and an up to date prescription may make the difference between easily navigating the stairs or stumbling.