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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Tai Chi May Prevent Falls Among Seniors

New Guidelines Suggest Reducing Certain Medications Also May Improve Balance in Seniors

Fall Prevention Is Everyone’s Issue

The onus is on everyone involved with the care of the aging population to implement these guidelines, Tinetti says.

“Nurses, physical therapists, specialists, and anybody who is caring for older people should be aware of these new guidelines and follow the components that are relevant to their area of expertise,” she says.

“Older people also need to take more responsibility when they see their care providers,” she says. For example, say ‘I want my blood pressure taken when I stand to see if it drops, and I want you to look at all my medications to see if any are going to increase my risk for falling or make me unsteady,” she says.

Make Fall Prevention a Focus

Ronald P. Grelsamer, MD, an associate professor of orthopedics at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, says fall prevention strategies should be implemented in and outside of the home.

Throw rugs, wires, telephone cables can all increase fall risk in the home, he says. "The bathroom is a dangerous place [and] mats and handles are important," Grelsamer says.

“When walking outside and there is a chance it might be slippery, move your feet apart a little bit because this makes you more stable right away,” he says. “If you are carrying something, carry it in the dominant hand, so if you fall your non-dominant hand will break your fall.”

“The main risk is that they are going to break their hip, but other fractures such as wrist fractures also occur, and emergency surgery is never minor in this population,” he says.

As for the updated guidelines, “I think it is a very good idea to make sure the eyes are as good as they can be and that an older person is not on more medication than they need,” Grelsamer says.

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