How does it feel to be a daredevil?
No, I don’t mean skydiving, scaling a rocky ledge or running with the bulls!
What I am talking about are common, everyday activities — such as walking, showering or climbing a flight of stairs.
Because falling is a much bigger risk than you might ever have imagined.
Four times more people die from falls than from fires or drowning combined. And it’s the No. 1 reason you might land in the ER. In the U.S., injuries due to falls send three times more people to the hospital than car accidents.
For seniors, the danger is even greater. We all know someone who was doing just fine until they took a tumble and never quite recovered. A fractured hip can take away your independence and even your life.
That’s why reducing your risk of falling and knowing how to “break a fall” so as not to shatter a leg or a hip may be two of the most important things you can do to stay out of a nursing home or rehab facility.
Just last week, Bob Barker, retired host of The Price is Right, took a bad fall in his bathroom during the night and was rushed to the ER.
Luckily, Barker (who unbelievably is 93!) looks like he’s going to be okay. But plenty of other celebrities didn’t do as well. Ann Davis from The Brady Bunch died after slipping and hitting her head in the tub, and novelist Kurt Vonnegut passed away after taking a fall in his home.
But while the media always lets us know when well-known people get injured or killed in this manner, falling is a danger for everyone.
And just a few months ago I told you about a new CDC report that found serious brain injuries caused by falls in people 75 and older have almost doubled in the past decade. And even before that, the agency said that falling was the leading cause of injuries and death for seniors.
But while we keep hearing all this bad news, what we’re not hearing is how to prevent falls from happening in the first place!
One way to do that is to take a good, long look at any medications you might be taking.
Antidepressants, sleeping pills, “benzo” meds like Xanax and Klonopin (for anxiety), and even OTC drugs such as Tylenol PM and Benadryl can significantly up your chances of taking a bad fall.
While those meds are the top contenders, hypertension drugs are high on the list as well, since a sudden drop in blood pressure can make you dizzy and have you scrambling to maintain your balance.
Other ways to keep gravity from getting the best of you include some common-sense ideas that are too often ignored.
- Hold onto the railing while going down the stairs, even if you think you don’t need to.
- Keep night lights in your bedroom and bathroom.
- Ditch that easy-to-trip-on area rug that keeps sliding around the floor.
- Don’t walk with your hands in your pockets, because that can make it hard to catch your balance, should you stumble.
- Don’t look (or even glance) at your phone while walking!
And if you do start to go down, here are some expert tips on the best way to land.
If you’re falling backward, reach back with your hands, and if forward, shoot your hands out in front of you. While such reactions may sound instinctive, seniors tend not to do them. That’s why younger people often break a wrist in a bad fall while seniors will break a hip.
Also, anything you can do to improve your balance may be more valuable than you could ever know — so why not take a class in yoga or Tai Chi?
And don’t forget to keep your bones strong with a daily vitamin D supplement.
That way, if the worst should happen, it hopefully won’t get the worst of you!
“How to survive a fatal fall: Experts are encouraging us to learn how to fall properly — but it’s not as impossible as it sounds” Neil Steinberg, June 6, 2017, The Daily Mail, dailymail.co.uk