My elderly mother lives alone, but despite her age, she is one of the healthiest, feistiest people I know. However, that doesn’t keep me from worrying about her living by herself. Most specifically, I can’t help but fear she’ll be injured should she fall with no one around to help her.
My concern is valid – of the nearly 3 million seniors ages 65 and older who fall every year, fewer than half speak with their doctors to receive precautionary follow-up treatment. This can lead to undiagnosed injuries, and in the worst-case scenarios, death. That said, there are many measures seniors can take to better ensure their safety. Here are a few important ones to consider:
Stay active. As we age, it takes a little more work to convince ourselves to exercise – but the older we get, the more crucial it becomes to keep our bodies moving. Low-impact exercises can be extremely beneficial in keeping our bodies strong and flexible enough to perform everyday activities. If you or your loved one have mobility issues, swimming is an especially great form of exercise to help you strengthen your body while minimizing joint pain and fall risk. Seek out an accessible pool in your area so that you can take advantage of the benefits of swimming year round.
Another great way to stay active is to get a pet. People who have dogs actually get more exercise and are happier and healthier than those who don’t. If you don’t want to take on caring for a pet on your own, consider becoming a dog walker or pet sitter. Many pet owners need help keeping their pets company during their workday. By offering your help, you can stay active and make a little extra money on the side. Just be sure that any dogs you offer to walk are well-trained and the right size for you. A large dog that pulls or doesn’t listen to commands could cause a fall.
Be mindful of what you eat. Although having a healthy diet may not necessarily prevent your risk of taking a tumble, more nutritious food choices can lead to stronger bones and tissue, as well as a healthier heart. So if you do stumble, your body is more equipped to deal with any physical trauma that may occur.
Get a good night’s rest. Not getting enough sleep each night can have a greater effect on your health than you may realize. For example, your judgment, decision-making, and reaction time may be impaired, which can increase your odds of falling should you encounter an obstacle in your walking path. Your body is also more susceptible to sickness, which weakens your body while it tries to fight off illness.
Adjust your surroundings for optimum safety. In order to prevent falls, it may be necessary to make certain modifications to your home. Check handrails to make sure they’re sturdy. If they aren’t, replace or reinforce them. Make sure there are no cords stretched across walkways or trip hazards such as rugs or warped floorboards. While home modifications may seem expensive, the alternative—moving to assisted living—can actually cost you even more. So, if you plan to stay in your home, keep it safe by making necessary changes and updates.
While I will probably always have at least some trepidation over my mom living on her own, I’m comforted by the fact that she puts her health first, and we have worked to maintain her home to accommodate her changing needs. If you feel you or a loved one is at risk of a fall, it’s important to take action to prevent this hardship from ever occurring.