One of my clients said this to his 83-year-old mother, after her third fall in 9 months. Ouch! While his words lacked tact, they certainly rang true. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% to 30% of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, or head traumas. These injuries can make it hard to get around or live independently, and increase the risk of early death.
Even if your aging parent isn't injured, he or she may develop a fear of falling. The fear can cause your parent to limit his or her activities. Physical fitness declines. And the actual risk of falling increases.
Fortunately there are some things you can do to reduce fall risk, even after your parent has taken a tumble. These are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
1. Encourage your agjng parent to:
- Exercise regularly. It is important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance, and that they get more challenging over time. Tai Chi programs are especially good.
- Ask his or her doctor or pharmacist to review their medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
- Have your parent's eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update their eyeglasses to maximize their vision. Consider getting a pair with single vision distance lenses for some activities such as walking outside.
- Make their homes safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding railings on both sides of stairways, and improving the lighting in their homes.
- Encourage your parent to drink plenty of liquids during the day. Many falls are due to dehydration.
Has your aging parent fallen recently? Can you think of anything else to reduce the risk of future falls?