9 tips for preventing falls

Brad Pope, MD, a Kaiser Permanente family physician in Spokane, is passionate about helping his patients avoid falls that may lead to broken bones and long-term health problems. “A serious injury may cause an older person to become unable to live independently, but there are things you can do to lower your risk of falls,” he says. Here are some suggestions.

1. Stay active.

Our new fitness program for Medicare Advantage HMO members, Silver&Fit®, gives you access to a variety of fitness classes, such as tai chi, that can help improve your flexibility, balance, and strength. See for more details.

2. Check your medications.

Your doctor can help you determine if any of your prescription or non-prescription medications might increase your risk of falling. Drugs for high blood pressure and chronic pain may cause balance problems. Antidepressant, anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety, and sleep medications can also cause problems. More on medication safety.

3. Get enough sleep.

You’re more likely to fall if you’re tired or sleepy. Sleep needs vary, but many older adults need 7 or 8 hours of sleep every night.

4. Wear non-skid, rubber-soled shoes.

It’s important that the soles aren’t too thick or thin. Don’t walk on stairs or floors in socks or in slippers or shoes with smooth soles.

5. Take your time.

Many people fall when they move too quickly from sitting to standing, or when going up or down stairs. Pause before moving, then go ahead — carefully.

6. Avoid too much alcohol.

Even small amounts of alcohol can affect your balance and reflexes. Studies show that the rate of hip fractures in older adults increases with alcohol use.

7. Get the right equipment.

Use a cane or walker if you need it. Consider getting a shower chair if you’re unsteady standing for long periods of time.

8. Tidy up at home.

Clear pathways, and don’t let bedding or curtains drag on the floor. Place frequently used items where you can easily reach them.

9. Tell your doctor if you’ve fallen.

A fall might be caused by a new health problem or a medication that needs adjusting. Your doctor can help you find ways to avoid future falls.

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