June is National Safety Month and a perfect time to focus on one of the most serious problems seniors face which is falls.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in a study that between 2000 and 2013, the death rate of seniors from falls nearly doubled, to almost 57 per every 100,000 deaths. Elders, 85 years and older, were nearly four times as likely to die from a fall and many of these falls are preventable. One in every three adults, age 65 and older, falls each year.
Many falls can be avoided and decreasing your risk starts with education.
Health and wellness are important components of the life plan community’s lifestyle and at East Ridge at Cutler Bay there is a concerted effort placed on fall prevention and decreasing residents’ risk.
One of the CDC recommendations is to exercise since weak legs can increase the risk of falling. At the Wellness Center, Suzana Delgado, the community’s wellness director, offers a variety of classes to build muscle strength and improve balance. In addition, a Senior Fitness Test evaluates balance, strength and flexibility. Personal fitness plans are created for every resident’s fitness level to encourage strength building exercise through classes and the use of the extensive equipment found at the Wellness Center.
The comradery of neighbors also helps motivate residents who find both the classes and Wellness Center less intimidating than traditional gyms.
Suzana works in conjunction with Dayami Madrigal, the East Ridge vitality counselor, and the community’s rehabilitation department.
Since about half of all falls happen at home, Dayami visits residents in their homes at East Ridge and offers suggestions for improving home safety with periodic home assessments to identify potential fall hazards.
For example, she may check to see if grab bars are placed in appropriate locations or if additional ones are needed, if walking areas are free from obstacles and clutter, if throw rugs are either removed or secured and if there is adequate lighting in bathrooms.
Among her tips are putting the items used in a medicine cabinet or kitchen cabinet within easy reach where a step stool isn’t needed to reach something, installing motion lighting, and using night lights in bathrooms. Grab bars need to be in appropriate locations inside and outside a tub or shower and next to the toilet, walking paths free from obstacles and clutter. Throw rugs should either be removed or secured. There needs to be adequate lighting in bathrooms. More and brighter light bulbs may be needed throughout a home.
Balance issues can be related to vertigo, ear infections, Meniere’s disease, chronic dizziness or drug interactions. At East Ridge there are referrals available to physicians, physical therapists, visiting pharmacists, ophthalmologists and audiologists to name a few.
Being mindful of medications is important. Some medications or the combinations of medicines can have side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness. This can make falling more likely. A doctor or pharmacist should review all medications which can help reduce risky side effects and drug interactions.
Having vision checked by an ophthalmologist should be yearly. Poor vision can make it more difficult to get around safely. Wearing glasses or contact lenses with the right prescription strength helps ensure that someone is seeing clearly. Depth perception is critical since it’s easy to fall off a curb or trip on a sidewalk. If you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities, such as walking. Sometimes these types of lenses can make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.
The East Ridge lifestyle and the availability of specialists within the life plan community helps in contributing to fall prevention but many of these tips can be useful in your own home as well.
To learn more about the East Ridge lifestyle and the benefits of living at a life plan community, please call 305-256-3564 to schedule a tour.