Stan Michael - Generations Magazine - October - November 2011Falling down is nothing new. We have been doing it all our lives. We fell as infants, as kids, as teenagers and even, awkwardly, as adults. The price for an active, healthy life has been an occasional fall and normally it is no big deal. When young and strong, you fell and “bounced” right back up. It’s a different story, though, for older adults. Any fall can be very serious.

Older adults don’t “bounce” anymore … and the result is normally injury. Every five hours in Hawai‘i a senior is injured so severely in a fall he/she must be treated in a hospital. Every five hours. Many of those seniors require extensive rehabilitation, and many never return to their own home after a fall. The loss of independence is immediate.

But people don’t fall simply because they’re older. We fall for a reason. Perhaps you didn’t notice the dip in the sidewalk because you were talking on your cell phone. You didn’t notice the dog’s toy in the hall because you had your eye on your grandchild. Or even though you know better, you moved too quickly on the slippery bathroom floor. And maybe, as an older adult, you fell because you got dizzy from being tried, or from moving too fast or even from your medications.

Protect your independence.

Five ways to prevent falls:

  1. Be active and stay fit: Walk, dance, swim, do yoga, garden or start an exercise program like tai chi. Keep moving to maintain your muscle strength and sense of balance.
  2. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review all of your medicines. If you take multiple prescriptions, plus other over-the-counter drugs and supplements, they could make you sleepy or dizzy.
  3. Have your eyes checked at least once a year. The doctor can update your eyeglass prescription and check your eyes for glaucoma or cataracts that limit vision.
  4. Make your home safer by removing things you can trip over like papers, books and other clutter. Install handrails on all staircases, and mount grab bars next to your toilet and in the tub or shower. Improve your home’s lighting. As you get older, you need brighter lights to see well.
  5. Stay off the roof and out of trees. Every year, dozens of Hawai‘i residents try to harvest fruits and end up in the emergency room. Never climb a ladder alone. Always have a family or friend hold the ladder, or ask a younger family member to get that last mango.

For more information, call: Hawai‘i Department of Health, Injury Prevention Program at 733-9202 or 733-9320.