Make your house fall-proof for the el­derly

Jamaica Gleaner - - HEALTH - Tom­lin Paul Dr Tom­lin Paul is a fam­ily physi­cian at Health Plus As­so­ciates in Kingston. Email: yourhealth@glean­

DOES THIS sound fa­mil­iar? Mom lost her bal­ance while climb­ing into the shower and fell and broke her wrist. Dad got up to use the bath­room late one night, tripped over the lamp cord and fell and broke his hip. Un­cle fell out­side in the gar­den, hit his head and had to have emer­gency surgery for a brain haem­or­rhage. Sadly, these are com­mon enough oc­cur­rences among our se­niors.


The changes in our bod­ies that come with age can put us at higher risk of falls. I De­clin­ing eye­sight. Low vi­sion from con­di­tions such as cataracts, glau­coma, and di­a­betic eye dis­ease can af­fect co­or­di­na­tion and bal­ance. Re­duced re­ac­tion time. With the age­ing of our ner­vous sys­tem, we are not as quick and ag­ile in re­spond­ing to threats. Loss of mus­cle strength. Mus­cles get weaker and joints be­come less flex­i­ble, mak­ing stand­ing up, get­ting up from a chair and walk­ing a chal­lenge. Limited move­ment. With less and less ac­tiv­ity, the age­ing changes in the body that af­fect strength and bal­ance can get worse.

Many dis­eases such as stroke and arthri­tis, by dis­turb­ing the body’s strength and bal­ance, can in­crease your risk of fall. The side ef­fects of some med­i­ca­tions can also be a prob­lem.


Just one fall can change your life! If you get up with no phys­i­cal in­jury, you may have lost con­fi­dence in your abil­ity to get around and start re­strict­ing your ac­tiv­i­ties. But with de­clin­ing bone strength, chances are you may break a bone. In Ja­maica, 90 per cent of hip frac­tures are due to falls and these are pre­dom­i­nantly in per­sons 65 years and older. Falls af­ter 50 may mean long stays in hos­pi­tal and re­duced func­tion af­ter you re­cover. In some cases, the re­sult could be like when Humpty Dumpty had that great fall!


Don’t just man­age your chronic dis­ease with med­i­ca­tion and doc­tor’s vis­its, but aim to keep fit. Get help with a pro­gramme of ex­er­cises to in­crease your strength and bal­ance. Yoga, Pi­lates and t’ai chi are good ex­am­ples.


The floor in your liv­ing room, bed­room, and cor­ri­dors can be a mine­field of things wait­ing to trip you up. Get rid of loose rugs, mats, curledup edges on car­pets and linoleum, and elec­tri­cal cords and small objects. Very shiny, slip­pery floors are also bad news.

As im­por­tant as it is, the bath­room can be the most dan­ger­ous room for the el­derly. You should not have to make a big step-over to get into the shower and the shower and bath­room floor must be non-skid, with no loose mats. Put grab bars on the wall and raise the height of that low toi­let so that you can rise from it safely. Good light­ing is needed right through­out the house, es­pe­cially on steps and cor­ri­dors.

If you are car­ing for a se­nior, take a good look at the sit­u­a­tion and their risk of fall­ing. Start to­day by mak­ing small changes to re­duce and pre­vent what can be a per­ilous event!


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