On July 26, Kaiser Permanente Fresno’s Rehabilitation Department hosted a fall prevention class at the Clovis Senior Center. Using a PowerPoint presentation and several informative handouts, physical therapist Joanne Jimenez taught ways to prevent falls, recognize safety hazards, and form safe habits.
“People worry about falling, breaking a bone and losing their independence. Most falls are preventable,” said Jimenez. “We want you to stay as mobile as much as possible and form habits that will prevent falls.”
Physical activity to prevent falls before they happen
- Move your body. One of the best ways to prevent falls is to maintain a strong lower body, healthy bones and flexible joints.
“Make opportunities to fit in exercise; it doesn’t have to be a chore and you can do it with another person. Make it fun!,” said Jimenez. “Find something you enjoy or try something new. Dancing is a great activity, so is water exercise. If you need to sit for awhile, set an alarm to get up and move. Don’t have a sedentary lifestyle.”
- Activity for about 30 minutes a day is recommended.
- See your doctor regularly to make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D3 to keep bones healthy. Generally, adults over the age of 50 require 1,220 milligrams (mg) of calcium and between 1,000 to 2,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin D3 daily.
- Dizziness is not a result of aging. With your doctor, review medications that may include side effects of dizziness. Make sure the doctor’s record of your medication is accurate.
- Check your blood pressure, vision and hearing; any of the three can affect balance.
- Keep eyeglasses clean and smudge free.
- Use hands instead of feet for balancing if you have neuropathy or difficulty balancing with your feet.
- Use a walking stick, cane or walker if they make you feel steadier. Wear good low heel supportive shoes.
Prevent falls in the home
- Remove throw rugs or secure them to the floor
- Keep paths and stairs clear of items that are easy to trip over. Secure wires or cords to the wall so they are out of the way.
- Fix loose handrails, broken or uneven steps. Mark steps with contrasting colors.
- Only use a step stool with a bar; never use a chair as a step stool.
- Have grab bars and non-slip mats in the bathroom.
- Store things on lower shelves so you don’t have to climb or reach high.
- Make sure you have enough lighting – utilize night lights, change burned out bulbs, have a lamp or a flashlight close to the bed. Other options include glare-free and motion activated lights.
- Train pets not to get underfoot.
- Wear an alert device, a whistle or have a phone with you, in case you need help.
In the event of a fall
- Stay calm and check for injuries. If you think you have a broken bone or are hurt, stay where you are and call for help.
- If you are not badly hurt, look around for a sturdy piece of furniture, like a chair.
- Roll onto your side and crawl or drag yourself over to the chair.
- From a kneeling position, put your arms up onto the seat of the chair. Bring one knee forward and put that foot on the floor.
- Push up with your arms and legs, pivot around.
- Sit down and rest before trying to move. If you don’t succeed at first, rest, then try again.
“This has given me ideas on changing things at home,” said one member of the audience. “Everything said here was helpful.”
For those who have a constant concern about balance and falling and are over 55 years old, SAFE (Senior Awareness and Fall Education) will be holding a free screening to assess your strength, balance and risk for falling on Tuesday, Oct. 2, and Tuesday, Oct. 30, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The screening is by appointment only and held at the California Health Sciences University at 45 N. Clovis Ave. A signed doctor’s release is required to participate. For more information, call 559-278-2625.