September ISN’T fall prevention month but as we head into the season of changing weather patterns and a winter on the horizon, it IS a timely topic of conversation. That’s because there are many things that contribute to fall prevention strategies and for some of them, fall is the perfect time to talk about implementation. We’re actually being proactive – to help you better prepare for fall prevention month – which, if you are curious, takes place in November. Fall is a beautiful time of year, a great time to get outside and enjoy the beautiful fall colours so let’s talk today about how to do that safely!
At Goshenite Senior Services we provide a variety of relocation, transition and care options to seniors considering a move OR those who choose to age in place. How is this relevant? It’s because we provide those services in one of the loveliest places in Ontario to be when fall arrives. That’s why we would encourage everyone and anyone who is able, to get outside and enjoy the spectacular fall colours that nature puts on display for us at this time of year and into October. If you need a drive or companion support in order to do so, Goshenite can help. In the meantime, here’s some “food for thought” when it comes to outdoor adventures and preventing falls and fractures.
Fall Prevention Strategies
First and foremost – stay physically active! That’s why we suggest fall as a great season to prepare for falls because it’s still lovely weather outside and in fact, the slightly cooler temperatures make it easy to consider going for a longer walk without getting heatstroke. Walking is the best form of exercise and will help to build up your stamina, manage weight, blood pressure and joint health and all of these combined will help to ensure you are more physically stable on your feet – even when the cooler (slippery) weather comes. If you haven’t already spent the summer walking, start now for a healthier fall and winter season!
Eat healthy! Nature’s bounty is overwhelming at this time of year. Just about everything is “in season” and with most fresh food markets continuing well into October, there’s no reason not to enjoy fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables. The long list of benefits to eating healthy are too numerous to cite here but a healthy diet certainly contributes to a healthy life!
Get tested! If it has been a while since you last had a physical checkup, now is the time. Visit the doctor to have an overall assessment done and address any concerns now so that you have time to work on them before winter sets in. Consider too having your hearing tested and your eyes tested as diminished capacity in either will definitely impact your ability to remain stable on your feet.
Are you sleeping well? Getting enough sleep is hard sometimes as we age but it is SO important for our overall health and well-being AND for maintaining balance, depth perception and agility. Think about any medications that may impact your sleep habits or even make you more unstable on your feet. Consider any lifestyle changes like moderating alcohol intake that might also be impacting sleep patterns and make the necessary changes now.
Don’t be vain, use a cane! If you have a mobility assistive device, use it! So many folks come to the hospital after a fall and deny using a cane or other walking supports even though they have been prescribed or strongly suggested! Why? Vanity! The perception of age and mobility aids being associated with frail and having diminished capacity prevents many older adults from using a simple tool that will actually give them more flexibility to walk in safety. Use them as a tool to prevent falls so that you can enjoy fall!
The research indicates that four main systems are associated with falls. These are the vestibular, visual, somatosensory and musculoskeletal. These systems all must work together to help the individual avoid a fall. This means your brain, eyes, inner ear, muscles and joints all work in harmony to help prevent a fall so everything we have outlined above to help keep them in good working order is vital to fall prevention. As we naturally age, even without any other risk factors, these biological systems also age making the potential for a fall more likely. Factor in real life hazards such as slippery conditions outdoors, ice and snow or indoor hazards like rugs, electrical wires, clutter and poor lighting and you have a recipe for disaster. So what else can you do to prevent a fall?
- Clear the clutter from your home and outdoor spaces. Pay particular attention to stairs and in the kitchen where many trip and falls occur.
- Take up (or glue down) area rugs. If you love your rugs, find one of the many tools available on the market to secure them safely to avoid tripping. If you can’t, remove them altogether. Rugs are a huge contributor to at home falls.
- Hide electrical cords. Another home hazard are cords for our computers, TV’s, phones and lights – bundle them, link together with zip ties and make sure they are hidden under and behind furniture.
- Shovel and salt. For outdoors, and if you can’t do it yourself ask for help having driveways, walkways and patios shovelled and salted to reduce the risk of a fall in slippery conditions.
- Install non-skid mats in your shower/bathtub and remove any small area rugs. Ensure the lighting is good so that even in the night you can see where you are going – consider a nightlight to help. Grab rails in the shower are also a good idea to help with getting in and out safely.
- Care Professionals. Finally, if you are using a service like Goshenite Senior Services, we will also take into consideration concerns such as your level of pain, placement of often used items within easy reach (your phone, the TV remote, beverages) and your personal needs (such as assisting with toileting and dressing) to help minimize the potential of a fall at home.
There’s a lot you can do to be proactive about preventing a fall in fall (or even in winter!) no matter your current health condition. Healthy, active seniors can maintain their regular schedule of walking and even those who need a little boost can start now and still be able to enjoy a fall colours scenic tour with, or without the companionship of a Goshenite Senior Services professional. Cooler weather, magnificent views and preparing and planning ahead for fall prevention are all good reason and important considerations to ensuring you get out and enjoy the fall without a fall!