Now that the weather is chilling off a bit and more people are heading outside to walk, prepare their gardens for the impending cold months, or just to enjoy the fresh air, it is a good time to discuss ways to avoid falling. Falls are the leading cause of injury in persons 65 and over and while they can occur in the home a fall is more likely to occur outdoors due to uneven terrain in the yard or the sidewalk.
There are some easy ways to prevent a fall including making sure that your legs are strong, using a cane or a walker if balance is a problem, and by being aware of your surroundings.
Exercise and physical therapy can target specific muscles in the legs to make sure that your hips have good range of motion. This will help avoid dragging a toe and creating a tripping hazard. In addition, exercises can strengthen the legs to improve endurance so walking for exercise or enjoyment will feel easier.
If balance is a problem or if you have experienced a fall, it is important to use a cane or walker to prevent another fall. Some people, understandably, prefer to hold on to a loved one while walking. This is not advisable as it creates the possibility of two people falling. Relying on another person to keep you upright is a lot to expect, especially over rough terrain or in poor climate conditions. Using a cane or walker does not have to be something permanent and can be used to maintain safety until the legs get stronger or confidence in walking improves.
Sometimes people have a fall because they trip over something in the home or outdoors like a rug, a pet, or a bump in the sidewalk. To avoid this, it is important to scan the environment and note any obstacles. Make sure that all paths are clear when possible and stay aware. As the holidays approach and elder family members come into unfamiliar homes, help them become aware of possible trip hazards or remove them to assure a safe path.
Many falls are preventable and making the changes suggested above will help everyone to enjoy a safe and confident active lifestyle.
Kristina earn her Doctor of Physical Therapy from Old Dominion University and joined Tidewater Physical Therapy, Inc. in 2006. She practices at Tidewater’s Williamsburg clinic in the Advanced Specialty Center on Ironbound Road. Kristina has a passion for working with patients suffering from balance and fall issues and in need of Vestibular Rehabilitation. She is also certified in Dry Needling and Direct Access.