It’s a fact: The older we get the more likely we are to fall and the more likely we are to hurt ourselves on the way down. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that each year 30-40% of Americans over age 60 fall at least once. This is something you want to be very careful about when it comes to your parents.
Now, you are unlikely to convince the folks to replace that brick terrace with nice smooth concrete, and even more unlikely to successfully eliminate the step between the living room and dining room, but there are a lot of environmental factors that are easily controlled, as we discussed in our previous post.
There are also two key interventions regarding their person.
Help them practice good balance. Yep. Practice. There are a host of balance enhancing exercises, most of which can be done anywhere with no special equipment. For instance, try simply standing on one foot for 10 seconds, with your other leg bent back like a stork. Then switch legs. (Do this in front of a counter or a chair back, so there is something to grab if necessary). Not as easy as it sounds, is it? But with practice you will even be able to do it with your eyes closed. Tai chi is also terrific for balance and your gym should be able to show you other useful exercises. Don’t keep them to yourself; remember, this is about your parents, so make sure they do them, too.
Check their medications. The American healthcare system (don’t get me started) makes sure that everyone sees a lot of specialists. Every one of them manages to prescribe one or more new medicines. Very few first ask about what else someone is already taking. And let’s be honest: even if the doctor asks, practically no one actually knows the answer. Layer on our odd proclivity to take other people’s drugs (“This worked great for me, you should try some.”) and there is no telling what kind of internal stew any one of us is brewing. But I digress.
It’s a good habit to routinely rifle through your parents’ medicine cabinet, check expiration dates, note the full range of what is there, and cross-check for interactions. At the same time you can weed out the ones that cause dizziness or balance issues (a problem with several frequently prescribed sleep aides, for instance), then proactively ask the doctor for an alternative.
The bottom line: You need as much in your favor as humanly possible.
This post is part two in a series on Fall Prevention. Be sure to also read: Preventing a Fall (Part 1) with 6 simple ways to make an environment safer and Preventing a Fall (Part 3) with a link to a brochure for more tips. Also visit our Facebook Page and download our Fall Prevention checklist, found under "Reports."