My darling mother turned 86 recently. She lives alone in the same home where she and my father raised all four of their children. Despite her age, she is one of the healthiest, feistiest people I know, but that doesn’t keep me from worrying about her living by herself. More 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. However, there are many measures seniors can take to better ensure their safety. Here are a few important ones to consider:
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 had cancer, swimming is an especially great form of exercise to help you recover from the illness and strengthen your body in the process.
Be Mindful of What You Eat
Although having a healthy diet may not necessarily prevent your risk of taking a tumble, as this article from the National Institutes of Health notes, 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. The NIH has information on how your diet impacts your overall well-being, as well as tips for eating more healthily.
Get A Good Night’s Rest
As this article on the importance of sleep points out, not getting your recommended 7 to 9 hours of slumber 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 floor boards. As this article notes, 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’ll always have some trepidation over my mom living on her own, I’m comforted by the fact that she puts her health first and that we’ve worked to maintain her home to accommodate her changing needs. If you feel you or a loved one is at risk of falling, it’s important to take action to prevent this hardship from ever occurring.
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Photo cred: David Mao