Finding Your Footing: Preventing Falls

April 01, 2013

Tripping over misplaced clutter or a loose cord can be irritating. But as we age, these household items may become health hazards. In fact, about 7 million people older than age 65 have a serious fall each year. While there’s no way to prevent all tumbles, many can be avoided.

“When it comes to falls, education and awareness are key,” says James J. Jeffries II, M.D., FACP, assistant section head, division of hospital medicine at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. “We see a lot of older adults in the ER for falls, and we try to educate patients and their family about how to avoid falling in the future.”

Tips to help you stay on your feet

There are many simple actions you can take to prevent falls. “One of the most important is removing hazards from the home,” says Deborah Spencer, M.S.N., R.N., director of emergency services at Henry Ford West Bloomfield. This includes throw rugs, long cords and other items that can cause trips. “Installing grab bars and nonslip mats in the bathroom can also help,” she notes. “Falls in the shower or bath are especially common in older adults.”

Spencer also suggests exercising and having regular vision exams. “If your eyesight is poor or your muscles are weak from inactivity, you’re more likely to fall,” she notes. It’s harder to maintain your balance if your muscles aren’t well-developed. It’s also important to know the side effects of your medicines, as some can cause dizziness.

The source of stumbles

For older adults who are at high risk of falling or who have already fallen several times, Henry Ford West Bloomfield offers a Gait Clinic. “We can help seniors find ways to be steadier on their feet,” says

Dr. Jeffries. If you might benefit from this clinic, talk with your primary care physician about getting a referral.

If you do fall, Spencer suggests calling your doctor or going to the ER to get checked out. “You can have internal injuries and not notice any symptoms right away,” she says. “It’s always better to err on the side of caution.”

Decrease Your Chances of Falling

What else can you do to prevent a tumble? Find out at HenryFordWestBloomfield.com/falls-and-injuries.

Learn to Stay Steady

Concerned about falls? Want to improve your balance? Henry Ford West Bloomfield is partnering with the Area Agency on Aging 1-B for this eight-week program for older adults.

What: A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns for Falls

When: Wednesdays, Sept. 16 through Nov. 4, 10 a.m. to noon

Where: Henry Ford West Bloomfield, private dining rooms 2 and 3

Cost: $15 per person for the entire eight-week session

Registration: Call 800-852-7795 or email wellnessprograms@aaa1b.com.