Preventing every senior's dreaded nightmare: a fall

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When it comes to seniors starting their research into Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC's), it's typically initiated by an unfortunate "health event." An escalation of an existing medical condition can underscore the obvious: that time is marching to a faster beat, and it is now prudent to start making plans for the future.

There is one event that doesn't discriminate against anyone 75 and older: the dreaded fall. When I hear about someone falling, it conjures up the worst nightmare because a fall can be extremely painful as well as life-threatening.

When someone falls, in most cases, he is not able to react quickly enough to brace himself (with his arm, etc.) prior to impact to prevent his head from hitting the hard ground or floor.

The true nightmare is when someone falls and the injury is so severe that she is unable to move. In situations like this, it's important to have some way of getting help immediately.

It is proven that once a senior has a fall due to nothing more than loss of balance, the likelihood of another fall occurring in the next few months increases dramatically.

Falls happen for a number of reasons: seniors' leg muscles, as they age, atrophy due to lack of exercise, and they begin to shuffle when they walk, which makes them vulnerable to transitions in pavement and stubbing their shoes on certain surfaces.

Seniors must always be aware of where they're walking in order to eliminate or reduce the odds of falling.

Those seniors who have a compromised auditory system (i.e. trouble hearing) will possibly experience problems with balance, in that the inner ear (vestibular system) plays a significant role in one's balance.

Here are a few active steps you can implement to improve your ability to eliminate future falls:

  • Your best defense against falls is staying physically fit. Resistance and stretching exercises along with a consistent walking regimen are very important.
  • Do not wear shoes that have a gripping rubber sole that can easily stick on certain surfaces like carpet, rugs, transition strips, etc.
  • When you start "wobbling" and find it difficult to stay erect, it's time to get a walker. Keep both hands on handle bars. It will keep you balanced and instill confidence when walking.

Poor balance issues will always be part of the aging process, but with behavior modifications you can reduce the possibility of falling in the future.

Joe Agee is the marketing and sales director for The Seabrook of Hilton Head. www.TheSeabrook.com

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