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Head Over Heels

It’s fall, ya’ll. The weather is getting cooler. The leaves, in all their brilliance, are re-coloring themselves. It’s my favorite season of the year.

What better time to talk about falling, than the first day of fall? You guessed it, it’s Fall Prevention Day, celebrated in the US on September 22, and in the UK on September 23.

I know a little about falls because I’m an expert at it. I do it consistently too. I’ve banged up the same knee, same palm, same side of my face too many times to count. When I got my eyes fixed (cataract surgery) things improved, but I’ve taken a few tumbles since. I used to think it was because I’m getting older, but frankly, it’s happened all my life. I’m just a clumsy, wimpy girl.

Thus, I work consistently, as in every day, on the prevention part of falling.

The Numbers Are Scary

According to the CDC:

1 out of 5 falls result in a serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury.

Every year 3 million seniors are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries caused by falling.

Over 800,000 people who have fallen are hospitalized each year. Most of these have head injuries or hip fractures.

More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls.

Falls are biggest cause of traumatic brain injuries.

Falls are serious stuff, folks. Almost 10 years ago, my mom took a serious fall in the middle of the street and hit her head on concrete. It took many weeks in the hospital and several years of recovery to get her “operational” again. She completely lost her sense of smell, and because of it her appetite. After about 5 years she fell again, hitting her head, and this led to her death.

It’s Not Rocket Science: Gravity Works – Preventing Falls

I’m not trying to be morose or a fearmonger, but if you are an “older” adult, are clumsy, or, heaven forbid, are older and clumsy like me, you should be aware of these preventative practices:

1. De-clutter your home and workplace. Move wires, shoes, clothes, equipment and furniture away from high traffic areas to prevent tripping.

2. If you run, hike, or go to the gym, make sure your shoes fit and your laces are tied. I always do a double shoelace tie every time I work out.

3. Wear rubber-soled shoes in wet areas (bathrooms, pools, hot tubs, etc.) Avoid flip flops. Add grip tape to your showers or areas where water may accumulate. Always wipe up spills when they occur.

4. Nightlights are your friends. Make sure all your hallways, closets and stairways are lit.

5. If you live or work in a place that has stairs, make sure there are adequate handrails and use them.

6. If you have kids, install window guards and gates on stairs.

7. Don’t rush! Rushing to turn off a stove or answer a phone can be disastrous.

8. Lighten your load. Capt’n Clean always rags on me about carrying too many objects (laundry, groceries, etc.) while going up and down stairs. He’s right.

9. Stand up slowly. I broke a foot one time by rushing to the bathroom while I had been writing at my computer for a few hours. My foot was so asleep that it felt like it wasn’t there and I fell right on it. It knocked out my exercise plans for a month. Grrr.

10. Stay physically active. Exercise improves your muscle tone and keeps your joints flexible. Even light weight bearing exercise will improve your bone density, so that if you do fall, your bones won’t break or shatter.

11. Try balance and strength training exercises. Yoga and resistance bands are great for this.

12. Have your eyes and ears checked regularly. I’m the poster child for this one. Do whatever your medical professionals tell you to do to be able to see and hear. And besides, glasses and hearing aids are fashionable for all “new 60-something” folk.

13. Know your meds. Find out if there are any side effects of the medicines you take. Sleepy and dizzy are falls’ best friends.

14. Get enough sleep. If you are tired or sleepy, you are more likely to fall.

15. Go easy on the booze. Tipsy is not cool.

16. Don’t be afraid to use an assistive device if you don’t feel steady on your feet, and if you have one, make sure that it’s the right size for you.

17. Go SLOW on wet or icy surfaces. If you live in an area that ices regularly, use some sort of ice melt product, like kitty litter or sand, by your doors and walkways.

18. Keep your hands free. Use shoulder bags, backpacks or FANNY PACKS so that you can hold on to railings.

19. Wear sensible shoes, as in nonskid, rubber-soled low-heeled ones. Climbing stairs or walking on slippery floors in socks or slippers with smooth soles is asking for trouble.

20. If the weather is bad, consider staying in.

Did you get all that? Most of it is just common sense, but it bears repeating. Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, EVERYONE is a fall risk. I’m preaching to myself as much as pandering this information to you, so maybe neither one of us will fall.

After all, life it too short to be laid up with a broken hip, knee, leg, arm or head, right?

Enjoy the change of seasons. It’s a great time to have fun. It’s a great time to enjoy living, but, there’s no enjoyment in a “trip.” It’s a great time to fall…in love…but PLEASE just don’t fall down.

Happy Fall! <–as in autumn

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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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