Thursday, September 14, 2017

Fall Prevention Outside The Home

September 22, 2017, the first day of fall, is also the 10th Annual Fall Prevention Awareness Day, created in an effort to bring more awareness to the issue of fall prevention in seniors.

While most falls occur inside the home, many also happen right outside in nearby vicinities like the yard or driveway. In-home upgrades like installing grab bars, using shower chairs, placing guide tape at stairways, and updating room lighting can make a huge difference in helping seniors see and navigate their home environments better. But what can be done for fall prevention outside the home? Don’t miss these go-to tips and best practices:

Getting In and Out of The Car

Getting in and out of the car might seem like an easy feat when you’re young, but as joints stiffen and leg muscles weaken with age, it can become more and more difficult. Retaining the ability to drive plays an instrumental role in helping seniors maintain their confidence and independence, but ensuring their safety when getting in and out of the car is also important for preventing immobilizing injuries like hip fractures.

A variety of car transfer tools exist which simplify the process of getting in and out of the car, no matter how tall or short it is. These include:

•    Swivel seat - a swivel seat is simply a cushion, usually made of comfortable gel or foam, that pivots (slide turns) to help people enter and exit the seat of a car without having to twist or turn their body.

•    Car cane - a car cane (car standing aid) is a reinforced handle that slides into the steel door latch of your car and gives you an extra supportive handle to hold on to when exiting the car.

•    Seat belt reacher - a seat belt reacher is a super basic tool that attaches to the seat belt and features and extra long loop handle with which someone can more easily reach  over to grab their seatbelt.

Walking the Dog
Going for a leisurely walk with your trusted canine companion may seem like a ‘walk in the park’, however, a sudden tug or pull of your dog chasing down a squirrel can leave even the sturdiest senior having to catch their balance. Dogs may also have a tendency to wrap the leash around their leg when walking, requiring their owner to bend over and adjust it.

These risk factors can make walking a dog a huge fall hazard, especially for seniors who have experienced a fall before. If you are a senior with a dog, consider finding a neighbor, family member, or friend who will join you in walking the dog, or ask a young person to walk your dog regularly as a way to earn a little bit of cash.

The bending, squatting, and lifting associated with many yardwork and gardening duties can put seniors at risk of not only falling outside, but of potentially injuring themselves in ways that can contribute to a fall. For example, bending over for an hour working on the garden can lead to muscle strain and inflammation in the lower back, which in turn could slow down response times and flexibility for a senior.

When working outside, avoid sitting, bending or squatting for more than 30 minutes at a time without standing up to walk around and stretch for a few minutes. Hauling heavy loads makes seniors more susceptible to injuring themselves as well, so get help when moving large items and use assistive equipment like wheelbarrows for transporting leaves, grass, mulch, hay, etc.

Other contributing factors to outdoor falls include poor outdoor lighting, debris and trip hazards around door entryways and on porches, slippery surfaces (ramps, porches, driveways), and uneven curbs or outdoor stairways. Simple steps like weather proofing the porch, adding non-slip grip tape to outdoor walkways, and installing sturdy railings around steps and stairs can go a long way to keeping you or your favorite senior upright and mobile!

This is a guest blog entry.

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