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Preventing Falls in Older Adults - Topic Overview

Every year, thousands of older adults fall and hurt themselves. Falls are one of the main causes of injury and loss of independence in people ages 65 and older.

There are many reasons older people fall. They may lose their footing when stepping off a street curb. Or they may fall after getting dizzy from taking medicines. Some falls may be related to the effects of aging, such as muscle weakness or delayed reflexes. Or falls may be related to the results of a stroke.

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Experts agree that some falls in older adults can be prevented. But since each person's risks are a bit different, talk to your doctor about which of the tips below might help you.

Take care of yourself

  • Keep your bones strong. Talk to your doctor to be sure you are getting enough vitamin D and calcium.
  • Have your vision and hearing checked each year or anytime you notice a change. If you have trouble seeing and hearing, you might not be able to avoid objects that make you lose your balance.
  • Call your doctor if you have calluses or corns on your feet that need to be removed or if you have sores that are not healing. If you wear loose-fitting shoes because of foot problems, you can lose your balance and fall.
  • If you tend to feel lightheaded when you stand up quickly, take the time to get up slowly from your bed or chair. When you wake up, it may help to sit up first and count slowly to 10 before you try to stand up. And after you stand up, stay still for a few seconds before you move.
  • If you are very weak or dizzy, don't try to walk around. Instead, see your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Call your doctor if you are dizzy and lose your balance. You may have a health problem that needs treatment, such as a blood pressure or inner ear problem. Or you may be having a side effect from a medicine that you take.
  • Be sure you are drinking enough water, especially if the weather is hot.

Take extra care if you live alone

  • If you live alone, think about wearing an alarm device that will bring help in case you fall and can't get up. Or carry a cordless or cell phone with you from room to room. Then you can quickly call for help if you need it.
  • Set up a plan to make contact once a day with a family member or friend. Have one person who knows where you are.
  • Learn how to get up from a fall. Try this when you have someone with you. If you can get up alone, practice this often enough to feel comfortable. If you can't get up by yourself, see a physical therapist for help.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 26, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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