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How seniors can prevent falls
Dr. David Hogan is the Brenda Strafford Foundation Chair in Geriatric Medicineat the University of Calgary
Q:I’m 82 years old and recently fell. While I wasn’t hurt, I’m worried I might fall again. How can I prevent another tumble?
A:Your concern is well-founded. Falls are both common and serious. About a third of people over the age of 65 fall at least onceevery year. The Alberta Centre for Injury Control &Research reports falls by seniors resulted in morethan 18,000 emergency department visits and 6,915hospital admissions in 2006.
I always recommend reporting a fall to your physician, who can help uncover the individual factorsthat could lead to you falling again.
In general, I recommend three things to prevent falls:
The first is to be active. Physical activity can make
the body stronger, improve balance and reduce the
risk of falling. If you’re not as steady on your feet
as you used to be, consider asking a professional
caregiver if you need a cane or a walker. I recommend
good footwear and, in winter, slip-on traction devices
(similar to mountain climber’s crampons) for shoes
and boots and ice picks for canes. It is important to
avoid becoming so afraid of falling that you don’t get
out of your house or your chair.
Next, check your environment. Loose carpets,bathtubs without handrails, icy sidewalks, unevensurfaces, pets, toys and other objects underfoot are allhazards. When you think about it, walking is reallycontrolled falling — it’s amazing we don’t fall more.
Finally, check your medications and nutrition.
Prescriptions for anxiety, depression, sleep, seda-
tives or tranquilizers and a variety of other medica-
tions can lead to a fall. Your physician can help you
weigh the relative benefits and risks of your medica-
tions. As for nutrition, vitamin D has attracted the
greatest interest. In addition to its other health ben-
efits, recent studies have found many people who
fall don’t have enough vitamin D. Osteoporosis
Canada recommends a daily intake of 800 to 2,000
IU for adults over 50.
*For more information, visit Finding Balance Alberta at findingbalancealberta.ca or call Health linkAlberta toll-free at 1-866-408-liNk (5465) aboutfall prevention programs and services where youlive.
As we age, the way we do our daily activities may need to change, includingthe way we sit down and get up from chairs.
Sitting down safely
Choose a chair that supports your back, elbows, thighs and feet. Make sureyour chair legs are flat on the bottom — no rollers — and use chairs witharm rests.
To sit down:
Back up to the chair, using the armrests to guide you.Make sure the back of your knees touch the chair seat.Using the armrestsfor support, sit down slowly.
To stand up:
Place your hands on the armrests, and stand up slowly.Pause, get your balance, and then move away from the chair.
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