Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.
With colder weather and the holidays right around the corner, thoughts begin to turn to our families. It’s around this time of the year, with Thanksgiving behind us and more gatherings ahead, that many of our patients observe changes in their older parents and grandparents. Perhaps Dad’s not as steady on his feet as he was last year; maybe Mom’s moving a little slower around the kitchen than she has the last few years.
It can be an awkward conversation, but the elephant in the room is falls. According to NIH Senior Health, one in three U.S. adults over the age of 65 falls every year. While some falls may be harmless, others can lead to fractures, emergency room visits, and a string of subsequent illnesses and injuries.
Discuss the Risk of Falling With Your Parents
If you notice a parent is having a little more difficulty getting out of the chair or walking, there are a few ways you can broach this subject in conversation. A new infographic from MobileHelp (below) offers some starting points. As a Houston orthopedic physician who sees many fall cases, I strongly recommend my patients and their families have these conversations before a fall occurs. Also, consider scheduling a fall screening.
#1 Discuss falls with the doctor. Sometimes it’s difficult for family members to “get through” to someone who needs help. A conversation between the patient and their physician may help motivate action in some cases!
#2 Talk to the pharmacist. Some medications may increase dizziness and cause other side effects that lead to falls. Patients should know what drugs they’re taking, how the drugs affect them, and if there are any alternatives (when necessary).
#3 Get a vision checkup. Eyesight changes, and sometimes patients compensate for poor vision instead of getting the professional care they need. Regular vision checkups can help prevent falls caused by poor eyesight.
#4 Evaluate the home. Many homes have tripping hazards, such as lamp cords, loose rugs and door seals. Identify any potential hazards, and determine how they can be minimized.
#5 Support in the home. From shower bars to ramps, there are many devices that can make the home easier and safer for at-risk patients to navigate.
#6 Improve storage. If ladders and stepstools are a part of an at-risk person’s day-to-day, then it may be time to reorganize the kitchen and closets.
#7 Nonslip shoes. Ask your Houston orthopedic doctor for shoe recommendations. Nonskid soles can make a big difference in reducing trips and falls.
#8 Stay active. Exercise that incorporates strength training, balance, flexibility and cardiovascular activity can be excellent for preventing future falls.
#9 Get a medical alert system. If an at-risk person keeps their phone on them at all times, make sure they know how to use it to get help. (Also check their cell service reception in different areas of the house, including the basement.) Consider purchasing a medical alert system.
See the full infographic below for more suggestions.
Fall Prevention With a Houston Orthopedic Doctor
For more information about preventing falls, schedule an appointment with an orthopedic physician at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics. Call (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment online.
Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.