Get a Checkup Every Year
To start, all older adults should talk to their healthcare provider about their fall risk. A good opportunity in which to have this discussion is during a yearly physical exam. Certain health issues can increase the risk of falling, such as leg weakness, mobility problems, and balance issues. Doctors or pharmacists can also review all the medicines an older adult takes, including over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements. Some medicines can have side effects that affect the ability to drive, walk, or get around safely. Furthermore, unintentional prescription drug overdoses are a potential problem for people of all ages. Older adults are often not aware of the serious dangers of some medicines, such as opioids prescribed for pain relief and benzodiazepines to relieve anxiety or insomnia. Certain medicines, when taken together or with alcohol, can sometimes lead to serious side effects and even death.
Encourage the older adults you know to get an eye exam each year. Poor vision can increase the chances of falling or being in a car crash. Wearing multifocal glasses, such as bifocals, trifocals, or progressive lenses can increase the risk of falling when outdoors or when walking up or down steps. Blurred fields of vision can worsen balance and make it more difficult to avoid tripping.
Improve Strength and Balance to Reduce Fall Risk
Following a regular physical activity program can reduce an older adult’s chances of falling, even when done as little as three times per week. However, simply walking is not enough. While brisk walking is good cardio exercise, exercising specifically to improve strength and balance is important for reducing falls for older adults. See the National Institute on Aging’s Go4Life exercises for strength and balance at go4life.nia.nih.govExternal for specific suggestions.