Did you know that one in every three Canadians over age 65 will fall at least once in a year? Falls often have serious consequences such as hip, wrist, and pelvic fractures that can have a lasting impact on your quality of life. Best Foot Forward is a public education program developed by the Canadian Chiropractic Association to address the issue of debilitating falls among older Canadians. Canada’s chiropractors are committed to reducing injury and disability from falls. A Doctor of Chiropractic can test your strength, steadiness, and balance – and give you advice on exercise, nutrition, and falls prevention.
Best Foot Forward:
Watch Your Step
One of the things you have complete control over is – you! There are many choices you can make that will reduce your risk of falling and protect your independence. Check out these tips for simple things you can do to stay safely on your feet.
Remove your reading glasses when you are walking. Always slip them off before you take a step.
Never climb on a chair or stool to reach something. Always ask for assistance.
If you have a pet such as a cat or a dog, consider putting a bell or reflector on its collar. It’s easy to stumble across an affectionate or sleeping pet that’s in your path.
Take your time. If you frequently find yourself rushing to pick up the phone, consider investing in a cordless phone that you can keep near you. Don’t rush to answer the door. The visitor will wait.
Always sit down to put on or take off shoes and clothing. Place a chair or bench near the entranceway.
Keep hallways and stairs free of children’s toys.
Wear shoes or slippers with non-slip soles indoors. That means you might have to give up that pair of loose, comfy slippers with the worn soles.
Ask for help if you need it. Most people like to lend a hand.
As we grow older, our risk of falling increases and so does the risk of serious injury from a fall. Most trips, slips, and falls happen in and around the home. Here are some simple things you can do to make sure your home doesn’t trip you up.
Falls at Home
Use a non-slip mat inside and outside the tub or shower.
Install grab bars by the toilet and in the tub and shower area.
Purchase a non-slip bath and shower bench to get in and out safely.
Install a raised toilet seat to make getting on and off easier.
Replace loose scatter mats with rugs that have rubber backing.
Wipe up spills immediately.
Keep everyday items on shelves within easy reach.
Make sure no extension cords cross your path.
Never climb on a chair or stool to reach for something. Always ask for assistance.
Use non-slip floor wax.
Add gliders to your chairs to make moving them easier when you sit down or get up from the table.
Keep stairways clear of clutter that can cause you to trip.
Ensure there are handrails on both sides of the staircase.
Repair loose railings.
Install non-slip strips on the edge of each step.
Secure loose or wrinkled carpet.
Ensure good lighting in stairwells.
Make sure you can see where you are going if you are carrying something up or down the stairs.
The Rest of the House
Have a clear path from the bedroom to the bathroom. Place night lights along the way to guide you.
Make sure tables and lamps are stable.
Always sit down when putting on or taking off shoes and clothing.
Don’t rush to answer the phone. Consider a cordless phone.
Keep a covered bucket of sand or salt near the doorway in winter to safely handle slippery conditions.
Make sure outdoor railings and stairs are sturdy and secure. Install railings on both sides of outdoor stairways if needed.
Keep steps and pathways clear of clutter such as yard tools, snow shovels, newspapers, and wet leaves.
Don’t juggle parcels while trying to enter the house. Never carry more than is reasonable. Instead, make a few trips from the car with smaller packages.
Improve Your Balance
Taking a tumble can cause serious injury that affects your everyday life and independence. One of the best ways you can reduce your risk of slipping, tripping, and falling is to improve your strength and balance. Almost any kind of physical activity is helpful – but some activities deliver greater benefits than others.
Strong Legs for Stability
Strengthening your leg muscles can reduce the chance of falling if you do lose your balance. Strong legs will stabilize you and can make the difference between staying on your feet and hitting the ground. While any activity that uses your legs is good, it’s important to find something you enjoy. The best exercise plan in the world won’t help if you don’t want to do it. Here are some ideas:
Walking requires no special equipment other than a pair of supportive shoes. Make an after-dinner walk part of your routine or leave the car in the driveway and take a walk to pick up light groceries. There are many simple ways to get moving more often.
Exercises that target specific leg muscles can be easily done at home – there’s no need to join an expensive gym. If you enjoy being with a group, community centres often have exercise programs for different age groups. Here’s a simple strengthening exercise to try:
This exercise can be done while watching TV or sitting at the kitchen table. While seated, straighten out one leg and gently lift it off the ground to a height that’s comfortable for you. Hold for 10 seconds if you can. Put that leg down. Extend and lift the other leg. As your strength grows, add ankle weights to give your legs even more of a workout.
Boost Your Balance
Your sense of balance is what keeps you on your feet – without it you would not be able to stand upright. Poor eyesight, some medications, and some health conditions can cause dizziness or other balance problems.
Keep these tips in mind:
Have an annual eye examination.
Review your medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements with your pharmacist or MD.
If you feel dizzy or faint, see a health professional for an evaluation.
Eat regularly and ensure you drink enough non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages.
Strength and balance work together to keep you steady. There are many activities that contribute to maintaining and improving balance – and help build strength. Swimming is a good choice if you enjoy the water. Cycling is appropriate for people who feel comfortable on a bike. Wear protective gear such as a helmet. Tai Chi benefits balance, strength, and flexibility. It also encourages mental focus, concentration, and calmness. Yoga can be adapted for any age. It offers benefits similar to Tai Chi. Golf gets you walking, and using a club requires balance and coordination. Dancing is a great workout for your legs. Put on your favourite music and practise your steps in the living room. These are just a few ideas to consider. Remember, anything that gets you on your feet and moving will help maintain strength and balance.
What’s a Good Goal?
Aim for 20 minutes of exercise at least three days a week. Even better – build some activity into every day. Your independence is worth it.
Credit: Canadian Chiropractic Association