Exercise among best ways to minimize risk of falls

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If you are a senior or are caring for an aging adult, you know the fear a potential fall brings. Fear of falling is not unwarranted. Falls can sideline seniors like no other risk.

Each year, millions of adults aged 65 and older fall and might sustain severe injury or even death.

It is thought that less than half of seniors who fall actually report it to their doctor.

The two leading causes of hospitalization for seniors are falls and not taking medications correctly.

The good news about aging is that keeping your mind, body and social life active can prevent or even reverse frailty. There are a number of things you can do to fight off frailty and stay strong.

There is a secret weapon that can help improve the strength, flexibility and balance needed to prevent mishaps and injury. It's called exercise.

Exercise is essential to retain or regain joint mobility, increase strength and increase balance even in folks with "normal aging" or illnesses such as arthritis, fibromyalgia or neurological disorders to name a few. It also benefits brain health.

Exercise doesn't have to be difficult. It can be great fun, especially if done with a companion.

Consider swimming, walking, dancing, biking, kayaking, yoga, Zumba, tai chi or chair exercises.

To guard against injuries caused by falling, you should:

  • Use weights and do weight-bearing exercises to strengthen both bones and muscles
  • Practice exercises designed to help improve balance
  • Choose low-impact exercises to avoid stress on your joints
  • Stretch daily to improve flexibility and mobility

Falls can be prevented with some diligence and planning. Seniors really can stay independent longer and remain at home where they really want to be.

Planning includes:

  1. Asking their pharmacist to review medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, to identify side effects that may cause dizziness, confirm how to take them and indicate why they are being prescribed;
  2. Have annual vision checks to identify eye health, if glasses need to be changed or cataracts removed; and
  3. Do a home safety check to reduce hazards and identify adaptations that might need to be made.

For more information, visit www.MakingHomeSaferforSeniors.com.

A good resource on how to increase strength and balance and learn simple exercises is the video series at www.caregiverstress.com.

Click on "caregiver resources," then "senior safety." Scroll to bottom of page to "Prevent Senior Falls: Assessment and Balance Exercises." The videos demonstrate simple, easy to follow exercises.

So to stave off frailty and remain independent, get off that sofa and get moving. Ask a friend to join you.

It's great for your body, mind and sense of wellbeing. Besides that, it's fun!

Rachel Carson, a retired Registered Physical Therapist and Certified Senior Advisor, is the owner of Home Instead Senior Care serving The Lowcountry since 1997.

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