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January 29, 2013

Easy prevention to reducing older adults’ risk of falling

McALESTER — Although even the most sure-footed among us take the occasional spill, the chances of tripping or falling increase sharply as we age. The good news is that most falls can be prevented.

Balance and gait, vision and medications commonly contribute to older adults’ falls along with the living environment and chronic conditions such as diabetes and arthritis.

Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries in adults age 65 and older. Even if they aren’t hurt, there’s a chance older adults could become nervous or scared of staying active after taking a spill. Directly enlisting the help and support of an older adult is one way to reduce the risk of falls.

More specifically, you should simply ask older family members if they are concerned about falling. If the answer is yes, encourage them to discuss their worries with a health care provider, who can properly assess and address concerns.

Taking the time to talk with older adults in your family about their health, most recent eye exam and current medications also will help cut down the risk of falls. Make sure your older loved ones are taking advantage of all the preventative benefits offered under Medicare, such as the annual wellness visit.

Ensure their vision prescriptions are not only up-to-date, but that they are actually wearing their glasses or contacts. If they’re struggling with their medications, have the prescriptions reviewed at each visit to the doctor.

Other strategies for preventing falls among older adults include using physical therapy or relying on assistive technology. Pay close attention to the way older family members move. Are they holding on to walls or someone when walking? Do they have problems getting out of chairs? A trained physical therapist can help improve balance, strength and gait through exercise.

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