Slips and falls cause lasting injuries

Cathy Hayden never stopped basket making at the Crafting Workshop at the Quincy Senior and Family Resource Center even after taking quite a tumble five years ago. But she says that fall changed the way she lives.

Hayden said, "I fell six stairs to the bottom and when I got up I couldn't move too good. My left side was all swollen and black and blue."

The cause of her fall - wearing slippery socks down the stairs. Vickie Tipton with the Area Agency on Aging says accidents like this often strip seniors of their independence.

Vickie Tipton said, "It's a proven medical fact as we age we tend to sustain injuries more easily and it does take longer for folks to recover and to heal up and sometimes injuries are permanent. We need to be proactive in preventing falls."

The bathroom is a prime location for falls. Install sturdy grab bars in the tub or shower and around the toilet.

Also rubber matting is a good idea in your tub or shower and make sure all rugs in your home or bathroom have non skid-padding. Tipton says keeping your home clutter free, with no tripping hazards can go a long way toward preventing a fall. Vision issues and lighting are also important to consider, especially if you wear bifocals. And use extreme caution on icy or slick pavement. Tipton says the key is to always take your time and don't take unnecessary risks..

As for Hayden, after her fall she began wearing appropriate shoes to go up and down the stairs and also makes sure her stair railing is sturdy. But most importantly...

Hayden said, "I don't take any chances, none."

Experts say seniors need to keep in mind some medications can make you dizzy and more prone to a fall.

Also have a Plan B. If it's icy out, call a relative or friend for help or a ride...or even postpone your appointment.

Other recommendations for preventing falls.

1. Make Fall Prevention a Top Priority " Falls represent a huge challenge for seniors that can lead to reduced independence, serious injury and even death. Don TMt wait to think about fall prevention until after it is too late. Talk with your doctor or physical therapist about fall prevention techniques. Check around your home regularly for hazards. Be aware of your surroundings and use caution at all times.

2. Take Your Time " Make sure to take your time and be very careful in getting from place to place. Use caution in getting up too quickly after eating, lying down or resting. Low blood pressure may cause dizziness at these times. Stand in place for a few seconds before moving forward. Try to avoid lifting things, especially heavy items, as this can lead to a fall.

3. Think About Vision Issues " Seniors need twice as much illumination as younger adults to see properly. Keep rooms, hallways and stairways well lit. Use nightlights in bedrooms, bathrooms and other dim areas. Have your vision checked regularly and wear your eyeglasses as much as possible. Use color contrast in the home whenever possible. Consider marking the edge of each stair in your staircase if you have depth perception difficulties.

4. Be Extra Careful During Winter " During the winter, use extreme caution when walking outdoors on wet or icy pavement. If you have to go out, make sure you have footwear appropriate both snow and ice. Be sure to clean up any water puddles that are brought in from the outside. Keep your home warm, as prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can lead to dizziness and falls.

5. Make the Bathroom Safe " The bathroom is a prime location for falls. Install sturdy grab bars in tub and toilet areas. Put rubber matting at the bottom of the tub. Make sure bathroom floors are not wet. Consider using a shower chair if bathing is difficult.

6. Watch Out for Environmental Hazards " Keep floors free from litter and clutter. Clean up spills immediately. Keep electrical cords away from walking paths. Secure small rugs and carpets with rubber, non-skid padding, or eliminate them altogether. Make sure that chairs are pushed up tightly against tables, and that dresser drawers are shut completely.

7. Use Mobility Aids Properly " Seniors who require mobility aids such as canes, walkers and wheelchairs should learn how to use them properly and make sure that they are in good condition. When using a wheelchair, make sure it is locked before getting in and out of it. Make sure you use your mobility aid at all times, not just when you TMre out of the house. Don TMt overload yourself with packages, as this will make any mobility aid useless.

8. Wear Appropriate Footwear " When indoors, seniors should wear lightweight gym shoes rather than heavy, clumsy athletic shoes. All footwear should be sturdy and well-fitted, with low heels and non-slip soles. Make sure that hems on pants, long skirts and robes are not torn or too long.

9. Exercise Regularly " A regular exercise and balance training program helps to improve strength, muscle tone, flexibility, and postural stability, all crucial to fall prevention. Seniors who are inactive are at the greatest risk of falling. Consult with a doctor or physical therapist to choose those exercises that are the safest and most effective.

10. Consider Medication Side Effects " Seniors should talk with their doctors about the side effects of their medications and whether they affect coordination, balance and blood pressure. Whenever possible, doctors should reduce or eliminate those medications that increase the risk of falling, such as sedatives and tranquilizers.