Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls

Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls

By Kingman Regional Medical Center Staff

June is National Safety Month— a good time to think about protecting your well-being by preventing falls. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one out of five falls causes a serious injury, such as broken bones or head trauma. Furthermore, falls are the third leading cause of death due to unintentional injury in the United States. 

Research has identified many conditions that contribute to falling. 

  • Weakness in the lower body
  • Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
  • Difficulties with walking and balance
  • Use of medicines that can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.
  • Vision or inner-ear problems
  • Foot pain or poor footwear
  • Tripping hazards such as broken or uneven steps, throw rugs, and clutter. 

Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling.

Falls in older adults

Each year, millions of people 65 and older suffer falls. In fact, more than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. And, if you fall once, your risk of falling again doubles. 

As you get older, physical changes and health conditions — even sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions — make falls more likely. The good news is that aging itself does not cause falls. Falls can be prevented and the fear of falling doesn’t need to rule your life.

Preventing falls

You can prevent falls with these simple
fall-prevention measures:

1. Talk to your doctor

Begin your fall-prevention plan by making an appointment with your doctor. Be prepared to discuss:

• All medications you are you taking. Make a list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements, or bring them with you to the appointment. Your doctor can review your medications for side effects and interactions that may increase your risk of falling. 

• Your history of falls.  Be prepared to tell your doctor about any falls you have had in the past. Write down the details, including when, where, and how you fell. Be prepared to discuss instances when you almost fell but were caught by someone or managed to grab hold of something just in time. Details such as these may help your doctor identify specific
fall-prevention strategies.

• Your health conditions.  Be prepared to discuss your health conditions and how comfortable you are when you walk — for example, do you feel any dizziness, joint pain, shortness of breath, or numbness in your feet or legs when you walk? Also, certain eye and ear disorders may increase your risk of falls. 

2. Keep moving

Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. With your doctor’s OK, consider activities such as walking, water workouts, or tai chi — a gentle exercise that involves slow and graceful dance-like movements. Such activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility.

If you avoid physical activity because you’re afraid of falling, tell your doctor. He or she may recommend carefully monitored exercise programs or refer you to KRMC’s Dizziness and Balance Center for improving your balance, flexibility, and muscle strength.

3. Wear sensible shoes

Consider changing your footwear as part of your fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers, and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble, and fall. So can walking in your stocking feet. Instead, wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles. Sensible shoes may also reduce joint pain.

4. Remove home hazards

Take a look around your home. Your living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallways, and stairways may be filled with hazards. To make your home safer:

  • Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords, and phone cords from walkways.
  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks, and plant stands from high-traffic areas.
  • Secure loose rugs with double-sided tape, tacks, or a slip-resistant backing — or remove loose rugs from your home.
  • Repair loose wooden floorboards and carpeting right away.
  • Store clothing, dishes, food, and other necessities within easy reach.
  • Immediately clean up spilled liquids, grease, or food.
  • Use nonslip mats in your bathtub or shower. Or use a bath seat, which allows you to sit while showering.

5. Light up your living space

Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. 

  • Place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom, and hallways.
  • Place a lamp within reach of your bed for
    middle-of-the-night needs.
  • Make clear paths to light switches that aren’t near room entrances. Consider trading traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
  • Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.
  • Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.

6. Use assistive devices

Your doctor might recommend using a cane or walker to keep you steady. Other assistive devices can help, too. For example:

  • Hand rails for both sides of stairways
  • Nonslip treads for bare-wood steps
  • A raised toilet seat or one with armrests
  • Grab bars for the shower or tub
  • A sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub — plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down

Balance testing and treatment

Depending on your individual condition, your doctor may order a balance assessment at KRMC’s Dizziness and Balance Center to pinpoint the cause of your unsteadiness. 

Your sense of balance requires correct input to your brain from your inner ear, your eyes, and from a special sensory system within your feet, muscles, and joints that perceives contact with the earth. Dizziness or imbalance can occur when any part of this complicated system does not work properly. 

At the KRMC Dizziness and Balance Center, we provide specialized expertise and technology for assessing your body’s balance functions, identifying causes of any unsteadiness, and treating those specific causes. Treatment usually involves special exercises and physical therapy tailored to your specific balance needs.  

Patients at our center realize remarkable improvement to their balance. They also experience many other health benefits that come with increased physical activity. 

With a referral from your doctor, most insurance plans, including Medicare and AHCCCS cover services at the KRMC Dizziness and Balance Center. For more information, please contact the center at (928) 692-4630 or visit our webpage listed under “Services” at www.azkrmc.com.

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