Steady as you go
By Colleen Casey, PhD, ANP-BC, associate clinical director for Providence Senior Health Program, and Jamie Caulley, Providence physical therapist and senior health program clinical liaison
Many people think imbalance, decreased mobility and falls are simply part of getting older. The truth is, there are many ways to maintain balance and reduce the risk of falling.
- Find a balance or exercise program. One option is Tai Chi, which, when practiced at least three times a week, can reduce falls by 50 percent. Providence offers health and wellness classes, including those specific to fall prevention. Additionally, the Oregon Health Authority offers fall prevention resources.
- Talk to a health care provider. Only 50 percent of older adults talk to their health care provider about a fall. Any concerns about falling should be discussed with a primary care provider (PCP). Your PCP can assess fall risk factors and suggest specific approaches/actions, such as a blood pressure evaluation, physical or occupational therapy referral, or high-risk medication adjustments.
- Review medications with a doctor or pharmacist regularly. Certain drugs can increase the risk of falling. Even over-the-counter drugs, like Benadryl®, or Tylenol® PM have been linked to falls. Medications should always be taken only as prescribed.
- Get vision and hearing checked every 1-2 years. Vision and hearing can affect balance. Even simple things like cleaning eyeglasses regularly can make a big difference.
- Keep the home safe. Find a fall prevention checklist and other resources on the Oregon.gov website.
- Enlist support of family and friends. Reducing falls is easier to do with help from others. Offer to help any friend or family member who could use your support in taking the steps above.