Falls

Few things are more important to older adults than their independence -- being able to do what they’d like when they’d like. But independence can be fleeting. Something unexpected, like a fall, can change everything. That’s why it’s important for older adults and their loved ones to take steps now to reduce the risk of a fall from happening.

Thankfully, many falls can be prevented with a little forethought and advance planning, according to Dr. J.B. Sobel, chief medical officer for Medicare. Dr. Sobel recommends taking the following precautions to prevent falls and increase your peace of mind.

Get an annual eye exam. More than 12 million Americans aged 40 years and older experience vision impairment, putting them at greater risk of falling. It’s important for them to get an annual eye exam and make sure that they wear their glasses as instructed. Many Medicare Advantage (MA) plans provide some vision coverage at no extra cost.

Review medications. People tend to take more medications as they age. Some of these medications, or a combination of medications, can cause dizziness or confusion, resulting in falls. Seniors should talk to their doctor or pharmacist about the medicines they are taking, including over-the-counter medications, regarding any interactions or unwanted side effects.

Do strength and balance exercises. Regular exercise strengthens muscles and improves balance and flexibility, helping reduce the chance of falls. Many MA plans include a fitness benefit at no extra cost. The benefit may include kits, bands and videos. Patients should always talk to their doctor about what exercises are right for them.

Limit alcohol consumption. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect a person’s balance and reflexes, leading to a fall. According to the National Institute on Aging, alcohol is a factor in 60% of falls in older Americans.

Ensure a safe home. Seniors can benefit from having grab bars installed inside and outside the bathtub tub or shower and next to the toilet, as well as having railings installed on both sides of stairs. Also, potential tripping hazards, such as floor mats, area rugs or extension cords, should be removed or taped down, both inside and outside the home.

Be careful with face masks. Wearing a face mask is a reality of the times, even after a COVID-19 vaccination, but face masks can restrict peripheral vision. When wearing a face mask, make sure it is snug covering both your nose and mouth, and take slow and measured steps. Those who wear glasses should wash the lenses with soap and water (if permitted by the manufacturer), shake off the excess liquid and allow them to air dry. This can help provide a fog barrier.

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