Preventing Falls by Maintaining Physical and Emotional Health
By Sean Lally, Staff Writer
Falls among the elderly are all too common. According to the CDC, more than a quarter of all older Americans fall every year, leading to injuries ranging from broken bones to severe traumatic brain injuries. What’s more, these injuries tend to be costly for society-at-large, totaling $31 billion annually. Any number of conditions can lead to falls, including weak muscles (especially in the legs and feet), vitamin deficiencies, vision and hearing problems, or external factors in the home, to name a few. To prevent falling it’s a good idea to maintain your physical and emotional wellbeing. To that end, there are a number of things to keep in mind.
For starters, it’s common, after experiencing an initial fall, to remain immobile, for fear of further injury. However, staying put is not exactly the best remedy for falling. This tends to lead to further muscle deterioration and an overall decline in physical and mental health. It’s better to remain mindful of your physical state and to actively pursue methods to ameliorate your current condition.
The older you get, the more important it becomes to attend doctor appointments regularly – and to do so more often than the average youth. If you ever notice any changes in your physical state of being, don’t hesitate to ask your physician about it. They can give you a sense of what you’re dealing with. The same goes with any vision problems. The CDC suggests seeing an eye doctor at least once a year. If you wear bifocals, it’s probably a good idea to ask your optometrist (or ophthalmologist) for a pair of glasses strictly meant for distance. These can be helpful when walking outdoors.
Maintaining Healthy Diet
Relatedly, you want to be diligent about your day-to-day health. This means eating healthy foods and drinking enough water to avoid dehydration and dizziness. Sometimes, a lack of water is all it takes to send you falling. The same goes for eating. A lack of certain vitamins could result in unexpected weakness and a consequent tumble.
In addition to eating well and visiting your doctor, it’s advisable to seek out an effective exercise regimen – one that helps you build lower body strength and balance. The CDC proposes Tai Chi as a viable option, as this form of exercise can help with both strength and balance.
There are a number of extant exercise routines specifically designed for elderly folks who are looking to prevent falls. Whichever you choose, there are few guidelines to keep in mind. For example, The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercises on a weekly basis. According to the same organization, it’s a good idea to work out in (a minimum of) 10-minute stretches. In the end, even if you have a condition that keeps you from completing moderate exercise routines, you should still be as physical as possible. Of course, you should not push past your limits. That’s why it’s a good idea to seek the help of a professional – someone who has experience with elderly workout regimens.
Your physical wellbeing is important, yes, but you may also want to give focus to your mental and emotional health. This is particularly true, considering the fact that nearly 20 percent of people over the age of 60 suffer from mental health issues, including but not limited to depression, anxiety and related substance use problems. Moreover, elderly people with physical ailments are more likely to suffer from such conditions. Thus, the physical and the emotional, we might say, are intertwined. In this regard, the work mentioned above can go a long way toward addressing any feelings of depression or anxiety. Other methods include: remaining active in your community, maintaining healthy relationships with your family and friends, finding time to relax (if you’re still working), and finding hobbies or activities that give you joy. If you’re in an assisted living facility (or a nursing home), there may be programs available to you that can help you cope with any emotional issues you may be experiencing.
In the end, it’s a good idea to reach out to someone for help, rather than do this work by yourself. Asking friends, family, doctors or other professionals for assistance can be a good way to start your journey to physical and emotional wellbeing.