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Family Files

6 steps to prevent a fall

Person walking in the woods

Having just observed National Falls Prevention Week (Sept. 18-22), I thought it would be good to discuss falls and how to prevent them. Chances are you know someone who has fallen or who is afraid of falling. Every 11 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury.

The National Council on Aging has many resources about this topic that can be helpful for those who have fallen, who are afraid of falling, and their families. NCOA has identified six steps to prevent a fall:

  • Find a good balance and exercise program. Look to build balance, strength, and flexibility. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging for referrals. Find a program you like and take a friend.
  • Talk to your health care provider. Ask for an assessment of your risk of falling. Share your history of recent falls.
  • Regularly review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist. Make sure side effects aren’t increasing your risk of falling. Take medications only as prescribed.
  • Get your vision and hearing checked annually and update your eyeglasses. Your eyes and ears are key to keeping you on your feet.
  • Keep your home safe. Remove tripping hazards, increase lighting, make stairs safe, and install grab bars in key areas.
  • Talk to your family members. Enlist their support in taking simple steps to stay safe. Falls are not just a seniors’ issue.

For more resources on fall prevention, go to the NCOA falls prevention webpage.

Some of our Illinois Extension staff (including myself) are trained to facilitate a class called A Matter of Balance. This is a proven program designed to help people manage concerns about falls and increase physical activity. Older adults learn positive coping methods to reduce fear of falling and remain active and independent.

A Matter of Balance helps participants become more confident about managing falls by showing them ways to increase their strength, finding ways to reduce falls, and protecting themselves if they do fall. In addition, participants report that they have increased the amount they exercise on a regular basis. Check with your local Extension office, or with your local Area Agency on Aging to see about a class that may be near you! 

Source: National Council on Aging    

Author:  Cheri Burcham is responsible for family life programming in the counties of Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Moultrie, Shelby and other parts of east central Illinois as needed. Cheri’s emphasis is on healthy lifestyles throughout the life span which include family relationships, communication, caregiving, stress management and human development including early childhood and healthy aging. Her passion is to help people to be their best selves and to promote a healthier, independent older population. When Cheri is not engaged in Extension work, she can be found raising Monarch butterflies and spreading the word about their amazing life cycles and migration to anyone who will listen!