Baltimore County Now
Program Coordinator, Baltimore County Department of Aging
Think for a moment of your family members and friends who are 65 or older. Statistically, one in every three seniors takes a fall each year – often with serious consequences. Fortunately, falls are a public health problem that is largely preventable.
Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and they are the leading cause of injury death among older adults. Even more alarming is the fact that death rates from falls among older men and women have risen sharply over the past decade.
The Baltimore County Department of Aging is spearheading a community effort to address this issue, and has formed the Gait Way to Better Balance Coalition. The mission of this broad partnership with health care providers and advocates is to reduce the risk of falls. The coalition provides free health screenings and fall prevention information to assist seniors in preventing falls and lowering their risks of injury if they do fall.
Older adults can remain independent and reduce their chances of falling. They can:
· Exercise regularly. It is important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance, and that they get more challenging over time. Tai Chi programs are especially good.
· Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medicines — both prescription and over-the counter — to identify medications that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
· Have their eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update their eyeglasses to maximize their vision. Consider getting a pair with single vision distance lenses for some activities such as walking outside.
· Make their homes safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding stair railings and improving the lighting in their homes.
These simple steps can go a long way to protecting the health and safety of older adults.