The STEADY U Ohio web page includes a seasonal spotlight focusing on a timely topic and tips to help prevent falls. Previous spotlights can be accessed here.
Learn more about the STEADY U Ohio falls prevention initiative.
Mind your medications; non-prescription doesn't equal safe
You’ve heard it before: Talk to your health care provider about all the prescription and non-prescription medicines and supplements you take.
But over-the-counter (OTC) medications and supplements are safe, aren’t they? The doctor told you to take a certain medication. So why should you mention everything you take?
While medications are intended to make us feel better, most medicines, even OTC medications, can have side effects, such as dizziness or drowsiness. The more medicines you take, the more likely you will have to deal with unwanted side effects. These can not only cause you to fall, but they can also impact other aspects of your life.
Some combinations of medications with OTC treatments can affect how the food you eat is absorbed in your body. Some combinations can cause fatigue, weight gain and headache. Your doctor may prescribe a medication to treat a troublesome symptom that is actually a side effect of a medication you are already taking.
Beyond preventing falls, talking to your doctor regularly about the medications you take has other benefits:
Remember: Non-prescription medicines should be treated with the same care and respect as prescription medications.
What type of exercise really helps prevent falls?
Balance training is the mainstay of fall prevention programs, but strength, as well as balance, is key to preventing a fall. Combining different forms of exercise improves your endurance, muscle strength and flexibility which can help reduce your chance of a fall or of sustaining a fall-related injury.
The benefits of practicing different types of exercises include:
You can do balance exercises as often as you'd like, even every day. Adding in two days a week of strength training helps improve your balance by working the muscles that keep you stable.
One exercise that focuses on both balance and strength is the Sit-to-Stand:
You can visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov to find more exercises and falls prevention tips.
What is Tai Chi and how can it help me?
Balance and strength are two key elements in preventing a fall. Exercise helps build both balance and strength, but what kind of exercise should you be doing?
Tai Chi is one form of exercise that experts recommend for any age group. It involves a series of whole-body movements, which are performed in a slow, focused manner combined with controlled breathing. It is a low impact exercise that puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it suitable for anyone. It helps improve balance by targeting all the physical components needed to stay upright—leg strength, flexibility, range of motion and reflexes—all of which tend to decline with age.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that as an aerobic workout, tai chi is roughly the equivalent of a brisk walk, depending on your intensity as you perform it.
You do not need special equipment and you can do it indoors or outdoors, either alone or with a group. Best of all, it requires only about 20 minutes a day.
Studies have shown that Tai Chi:
You can find a list of Tai Chi instructors here.
Make your kitchen a falls free zone
The kitchen is the heart of the home. Hanging out, relaxing and cooking for yourself or loved ones is something that people of all ages like to do, especially older adults who have a background or passion for cooking. However, as we get older, a kitchen that used to meet our needs may need some adjustments to ensure we can safely continue cooking and enjoying meals.
A few simple changes can help make your kitchen a safe place:
You may be afraid of falling if...
Do you “furniture surf” as you move through your home – running your hands along the backs of chairs or sofas, or along walls, to steady yourself? Do you avoid going to events or socializing with friends because you feel unsteady on your feet? Do you prefer to sit and watch television because moving around makes you nervous? You may be afraid of falling.
People who fall (or nearly fall) may become less active or stop doing activities they enjoy, thinking that will keep them safe from falls. While being aware of your falls risk is not a bad thing, limiting yourself because you are afraid of falling actually puts you at higher risk of falling.
Warning signs that you or a loved one may have a fear of falling:
You can reduce your risk of falling - and your fear - by paying attention to the "Three H's:" Your home, your health and your habits.
Home: Most falls happen in the home, so falls prevention begins at home. Start with minor changes, such as keeping walkways and stairs clear of clutter and storing food, dishes and equipment within easy reach in your kitchen.
Health: A healthy body is a steady body. As we age, our bodies change, and those changes sometimes can increase our risk of falling. The good news is they don't have to. Make healthy choices and talk openly and honestly with your health care professionals about your falls risk and any history of falls.
Habits: The things you do every day can affect your likelihood of falling. By adopting safe and healthy habits - and dropping bad ones – you are making decisions that will keep you steady on your feet. You can decide to sit to get dressed instead of standing and trying to balance on one leg when putting on pants, socks or shoes. Or you can decide to ask for help with tasks that you are not comfortable doing or that you feel you can't do safely.
Walk like a penguin to avoid a winter fall
What could be better than being outside on a crisp, snowy day? Walking around on snowy, icy sidewalks without falling would be much better. Winter can be a lovely time of year, but snow and ice can make getting around challenging. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospital visits, and wintry conditions raise the potential of taking a life-changing tumble.
To stay on your feet, imitate how a penguin walks in snowy conditions. Take smaller, slower steps and keep your weight forward over your front leg. That’s the ‘penguin walk.’ It looks like a waddle and may not be graceful, but it will help reduce your risk of falling.
A few more tips steps to help you reduce the risk of falls on icy surfaces:
More winter falls prevention tips.
One of the biggest risks from wintry weather is falling, particularly among older adults. Icy conditions make it harder to stay on your feet, and the cold may cause us to limit our activity, which can lead to loss of strength and balance. Be ready for another unpredictable Ohio winter:
Gifts that keep giving by preventing falls
It’s that time again – time to give gifts that show how much you care. But what do you give someone who says they have everything they need? Another pair of gloves? Flowers? More candy? How about giving the older adult you love something that’s really useful? How about a gift that will help them avoid a fall?
This year, give a gift that an older adult can not only use, but that will also reduce their risk of a potentially life-changing fall.
One of caregivers’ many jobs – preventing falls
November is National Caregiver Month, which recognizes the roles caregivers play to help older loved ones remain safe and independent in their own homes and communities. One of the most important jobs a caregiver can do is to help loved ones understand their risk of falling and help them make the changes that can help prevent falls. But what can a caregiver do when their loved one doesn’t want to think about, much less talk about, falls and how to keep from falling?
A caregiver can:
Caregivers must balance between ensuring their loved one is safe and respecting her freedom and right to make decisions for herself. A single fall can change someone’s life significantly. Using the Falls Risk Self-assessment can help loved ones see their health and environment in new ways.
The goal is to work with your loved one to help improve the quality of his or her life. And in the process, you can reduce their risk of falls.
More caregiver tips to prevent falls...
Leaves are supposed to fall, people aren't
After a long, hot summer, autumn is finally here. The days are getting shorter and cooler, and the trees in your neighborhood are taking on new colors. While we expect autumn leaves to fall, we know that people shouldn’t.
Falls are not a normal part of aging, and most falls can be prevented. One in three older Ohioans will fall this year, but that doesn’t have to be the case. As Summer turns to Fall, here are some changes you can make to your home, health and habits to lower your risk for a potentially life-changing fall:
Let's talk about falls prevention
September is Falls Prevention Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time to talk with your older loved ones about falls and the many things they can do to reduce their risk and prevent them.
A single fall can change a loved one’s life significantly and make her less independent and more reliant on others. You want to help, but find she doesn’t want to talk about the subject. Falls also affect family members and others, so you need to find a balance between ensuring your loved one’s safety and respecting her right to make her own decisions.
Bring the topic up frequently and be persistent, but respectful. If she says she doesn't want to talk about it, that's OK. Let it go for the time being, but bring the topic up again, soon.
Start the conversation by assuring her that falling is not a normal part of aging. While many age-related factors increase risk, most falls can be prevented. Share stories of others you know who have fallen and ask open-ended questions like: "What could he have done to prevent that fall?"
Talk to your loved one about remaining healthy and active. That includes eating nutritious meals and drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, along with physical activity to maintain strength, flexibility and balance. Find activities you enjoy together and volunteer to exercise with your loved one.
Look around your loved one’s home for common falls risks and talk about how to remove them. Look for rugs and poorly lit areas first. Rearrange kitchens, bathrooms and closets to minimize bending and stretching. Encourage the use of canes or walkers and make sure they are adjusted properly. Discuss more substantial changes, like adding grab bars to the bathroom, second railings to stairs and extra lighting.
More tips for talking with loved ones about falls prevention...
Ohio’s festivals and destinations can be fun tools to help you prevent falls
From bratwurst, to sweet corn, to folk music, to antique farm machinery, Ohio has a festival to celebrate each of these and more. Along with the state’s world-class zoos and amusement parks, local fairs and festivals are fun getaways and great places to get some exercise, which is important to help prevent falls in your day-to-day life.
But outdoor events and attractions do present some unique falls risks:
You can also ensure you stay on your feet and have a great time with a little advanced planning.
Plan to join us at the Ohio State Fair on Senior Day, July 31, 2018, for the “Well Beyond 60!” EXPO. Take advantage of more than a dozen free health screenings and services, including computerized balance testing.
Heat-related illness and older adults
Find your next destination with Ohio Tourism
Exercise could be your best bet to reduce your risk of falling
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated its recommendations on the best ways to prevent falls in older adults. The strongest finding indicates that exercise programs focused on strength and resistance training, as well as balance and gait, help reduce the risk of falls. Checking someone’s medications, vision and home environment also is effective, but the real key to staying on your feet is continued exercise.
Any type of exercise helps, from lifting your legs while you watch TV and marching in place, to walking, to exercise programs like yoga and tai chi. Here are a few examples to try.
The USPSTF also found that taking vitamin D does not prevent falls. While it may not prevent a fall, it is still vital for strong bones and muscles. Eating fish, fortified milk, yogurt and egg yolks will add vitamin D to your diet. Sunlight actually helps your body produce vitamin D. Just 13-16 minutes a day in sunlight will produce benefits. Talk to your doctor about how you can increase your vitamin D level.
A Matter of Balance, available through your area agency on aging, is a program that helps reduce the fear of falling and increase activity levels among older adults. Participants learn about the importance of exercise in preventing falls; practice exercises to improve strength, coordination and balance; see how to conduct a home safety evaluation; and gain strategies to get up and down safely. Participants engage in 25 minutes of exercise at the start of each class.
The best way to prevent a fall? Know your risk of falling
Falling is not a normal part of aging, and most falls can be prevented. But you can’t prevent a fall unless you recognize that there is a risk. Do any of the following statements applies to you or a loved one?
Give yourself one point for each statement you answered with “yes.” (Add two points for items marked with “*.” If you scored four points or more, you may be at increased risk for falls. Talk to your health care provider and ask for a comprehensive falls risk assessment. Be prepared to talk about your history of falls, your medications and your physical activity level.
You can also take an interactive version of this assessment, with results you can print and take to your doctor.
Once you know what is putting you at risk for a fall, your next step is to do whatever you need to do help prevent a fall. Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov for tips and resources.
Keep the Spring in Your Step and Avoid Weather Related Falls
After a long, hard winter, Spring is finally here. We can get out and enjoy the outdoors and get some much-needed exercise. However, severe spring weather and other conditions can increase your risk of falling:
Falls are not a normal part of aging, but as we age, we may be more susceptible to serious injury from a fall. One in three Ohioans age 65 and older will fall this year, and that rate goes up to one in two after age 79.
Fortunately, most falls can be prevented when you understand your risks and take steps to remove or avoid hazards.
STEADY U Ohio thanks Ruth Emptage, PharmD, BCGP, The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, Ohio Pharmacists Association for contributing this article.
Medications are one of the best ways to treat chronic conditions and other health issues. Unfortunately, they can sometimes cause side effects, such as putting a person at risk for falls. There are five key ways to minimize your risk of falls from medications.
Medications that affect the brain, blood pressure and blood sugar are the most likely to contribute to increased risk for falls. Medications for sleep or anxiety, referred to as "psychoactive" medicines, can contribute to an increased risk of falls. Non-prescription medications which have PM in the name contain a medication called diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl) are also known to increase fall risk. Reduce your falls risk by talking to your pharmacist!
Night may fall, but you don't have to
The shorter days of Fall are here. As it gets dark earlier, now is a good time to brighten up your home. One of the top ways to prevent falls is to make sure that homes are always well-lit.
As we get older, our vision changes. These changes can lead to challenges navigating in the dark. Poor lighting can hide obstacles or make shadows worse, which can make it harder to safely get around your home.
Tips to brighten up your home:
Talk to a lighting specialist at your local home improvement store to pick the best lights for your home. These changes are low cost and are a good investment in preventing falls.
Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov to find more falls prevention tips and resources to make your home a falls free zone.
This Valentine’s Day, tell your loved one: “Don’t fall for me!”
Love is in the air, but hidden falls risks may be underfoot for someone you love. You could celebrate this time of love and devotion with just flowers or a box of chocolates. Or you could help the people you care about most prevent falls and fall-related injuries. Valentine’s day provides a great opportunity to talk about falls prevention in a fun way, while showing how deeply you care.
The STEADY U Ohio initiative suggests discussing these falls risk factors with older loved ones:
Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov for more tips and resources to prevent falls.