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Moving Toward Better Health

The official blog of Konicki Schumacher Chiropractic


Preventing Falls Among Older Adults

Posted by Dr. Tom Konicki
Dr. Tom Konicki
Dr. Thomas Konicki earned his B.S. in Biology at the University of Cincinnati and then went on to the Los Ange...
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in Self-Care/Prevention

Question: My elderly mother recently fell and fortunately was only bruised badly. Do you have any suggestion for preventing falls?

Answer: Falling is a very serious threat to the elderly. It can easily cause broken bones, such as a hip that leads to long-term disability and eventual decline. Falling on your head may actually cause death.

As you age, you have less muscle tone and joint flexibility which hinders your ability to stand, walk and rise from chairs.

You may not see or hear as well, which can affect your coordination. You may not see an item laying in your path. Your feet lose sensation over time due to nerve deterioration. It is much easier to trip when you are not certain where your feet are.

In 2003, more than 1.8 million were treated in hospital emergency room for fall-related injuries. Of those, 421,000 were hospitalized.

Researchers have identified a number of modifiable risk factors that increase your likelihood of falling. This includes medication side effects, loss of limb sensation, poor eyesight, tripping hazards within your home and lack of physical activity.

Perform a home safety checklist: remove throw rugs; secure carpet edges; remove objects on the floor; remove cords and wires on the floor; have adequate bathroom lighting at night; secure carpet or treads on stairs; install handrails on staircases; do not wax your floors -- or use nonskid wax.

Bathrooms can be hazardous. Install grab bars in the bathtub/shower and by the toilet. Use rubber mats in the bathtub/shower and install a raised toilet seat. Ensure that the telephone can be reached from the floor in case you fall. You may want to install a phone in the bathroom.

The outdoors can be dangerous. Repair cracked sidewalks, install handrails on stairs and steps, trim shrubbery along pathways and install lighting by your door and walkways.

Review your medications. Many medications cause dizziness as a side effect. Talk to your doctor about using the lowest effective dosage to avoid this potential risk for falling.

Have your vision checked. You may be more susceptible to fuzzy vision, glare and loss of depth perception. These may be correctable with your eye doctor.

Prevent osteoporosis. If you do fall, you can reduce your chances of fracture. Consume calcium-rich foods, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, fish, shellfish, broccoli, soybeans, collards, turnip greens, tofu and almonds. When possible, get some sunshine to absorb vitamin D and take 1500 mg of calcium a day.

Regular exercise helps prevent falls. This includes walking, water, exercise or tai chi - a gentle exercise with slow dance-like movement.

Exercise increases your strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.

One simple exercise is to practice standing on one foot at a time. This forces your coordination to work as well as build strength. Stand by your kitchen counter and hold on. Now lift one foot and stand up to one minute. Now exercise the other leg. In a week or two, you can attempt to do this without holding on to the kitchen counter. Be certain someone is nearby to stabilize you. You will be surprised how hard this is!

If you continue to practice everyday, you will be surprised at your ability to stand on one foot without hands. Some of my patients have reported reducing their number of falls simply by practicing this.

If you live alone, have someone check on you daily or pay for an emergency-monitoring company with 24 hour service.

Lastly, keep your spine and joints in good alignment with your chiropractor. This maximizes your ability for coordination and balance.

Copyright © 2008 - Konicki Schumacher Chiropractic. All rights reserved.

Dr. Tom Konicki is a board certified chiropractic orthopedist and has practiced for many years in South Dayton. You can reach him at www.kschiro.com or mail your questions to Ask the Chiropractor, 2165 Miamisburg-Centerville Road, Dayton, Ohio 45459.

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