Falls are one of the most common—and most dangerous—threats facing older adults. About 1 in 3 seniors over age 65 will experience at least one fall within the next 12 months, and about 1 in 5 of those falls results in a serious injury, such as broken bones or concussions. The odds that you’ll fall—and the risk that the damage will be severe, potentially even lethal—continue to rise with age.
In a flash, a life can be changed forever. While once you may have been mobile and independent, a broken hip or traumatic brain injury can take that all away, possibly forever. Even if the injury fully heals, you may never be as active as you were before. And yet, despite the potential consequences, may people still don’t take the risk seriously until it’s too late.
As a podiatrist, Dr. Harvey Danciger is in the business of keeping you healthy, mobile, active, and independent at every age. Here’s how we can help you prevent falls, and how you can help yourself.
Focusing on the Feet
Your feet are your foundation, and making sure they’re in good working order can make a big difference in keeping your balance. This is where a podiatrist like Dr. Danciger can provide a major benefit.
Foot and ankle issues that could contribute to instability include deformities like bunions or hammertoes, flat feet or high arches, gait irregularities, nerve issues and neuropathy, chronic lateral ankle instability due to weakened tendons and ligaments, and many more. Fixing these issues through various methods, from orthotics and bracing to physical therapy to surgery, will minimize your risk.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re wearing good shoes. Avoid slippers, flip flops, high heels, or other styles that don’t give you the support or grip you need. Comfortable, sturdy, lace-up shoes with thick, non-skid soles are what you require.
Although getting older slows us all down to some extent, there’s no age limit on improving strength, coordination, and balance. Walking regularly, stretching legs and feet, and performing simple balance exercises safely (such as standing on one leg) will help you retain the best possible physical support structure for staying upright. This is another area where we can really help you, providing detailed instructions for an exercise program that you can put into practice safely and effectively.
Address Other Medical Concerns
Make sure you’re up-to-date with your checkups with your general practitioner, and be sure to ask about fall prevention if you have any concerns (or especially if you’ve fallen before, or came close). Certain health conditions, as well as certain medications or supplements that can cause side effects such as headaches, fatigue, or confusion may increase your fall risk.
Make an appointment with your ophthalmologist or optometrist as well. We all depend on our eyes to assess risks and hazards, and if your visual acuity isn’t as sharp as it used to be, you may not see a potential obstacle until it’s too late.
Create a Hazard-Free Home
Make your living space as safe as possible by removing clutter and, if necessary, installing assistive devices that help you accomplish tasks more safely. These might include:
- Clean up clutter (newspapers, boxes, lose cords, etc.) and remove furniture such as coffee tables and magazine racks from high traffic areas.
- Remove throw rugs or secure them using tape, tacks, or non-skid backing.
- Place non-slip mats in showers, bathrooms, stars, kitchen, or any other potentially slippery or dangerous spots.
- Install grab bars or hand rails in locations like bathrooms and stairwells to help you get up and down or move around safely.
- Keep any regular necessities (such as clothes, dishes, food, cleaning supplies) that you need to access regularly within easy reach. You shouldn’t have to reach up high to get them.
- Make sure any room or area you’ll be using is brightly lit before you enter.
We strongly recommend asking us or your regular doctor for a referral for an occupational therapist. These professionals will come to your home to provide a fall risk assessment and provide instructions on how to make your home as safe as possible.
Of course, no one can totally prevent a bad outcome, but by taking a few small steps you can greatly increase the safety of your home and the stability of your strike, giving you the best possible chance at many more years of healthy, active, independent, fall-free living. To make your appointment with Dr. Harvey Danciger, please call 760-568-0108 today.