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Published on January 13, 2021

older woman exercising virtually

How to prevent falls among older adults

Falls are the number one cause of traumatic injuries treated at Gundersen Health System, especially among older adults. Thankfully, many falls can be prevented. Use these tips—or share them with a loved one—to stay safe.

Exercise.

It's vital to engage in physical activity to keep your balance and strength, which decreases your risk for falling and helps you maintain your independence. Some great options for movement include practicing tai chi, using resistance bands or lifting handheld weights or other household items. Think soup cans or water bottles. If you're just starting out exercising, begin slowly. As you grow stronger, you can safely add to your routine.

Get your vision checked yearly.

Many people experience changes in their eyesight as they age. These shifts, which can affect how clearly you see, your depth perception and more, can make it difficult to safely move throughout your day. Schedule a yearly eye exam to ensure you're not putting yourself at greater risk of tripping and falling.

Review your medications with your doctor.

Research shows that adults who take four or more medications are at greater risk of falling. The reason? Some medications cause side effects like dizziness or interact with other prescriptions that can interfere with your vision, balance and more. Your doctor or a pharmacist can review your medication list with you to prevent dangerous side effects. If you've experienced a fall already, it's important to tell your doctor. Not only can they go over your medications with you, they also may be able to offer you other helpful resources to help you stay safe, such as physical therapy.

Check your home.

Unclear pathways, clutter on stairs, hallways with poor lighting: All these things can create falling hazards. Take time to evaluate your home for problematic spots. Areas to pay especially close attention to include stairs, entryways, hallways and poorly lit spaces. It's also important to check pathways from your bedroom to your bathroom. Tip: Keep a flashlight next to your bed or install a motion-censored nightlight on the pathway if you tend to use it often at night.

Keep sidewalks and driveways clear.

Snow and ice are main culprits for winter falls. Develop a plan for keeping outdoor areas shoveled and salted, which may mean asking a neighbor or family member for help or hiring someone.

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