Practical safety tips for preventing falls and head injuries from Erie County Department of Senior Services & ECDOH
Submitted by the Erie County Department of Health
One trip on a staircase or a slip on a rug can have a devastating effect on health and mobility, especially for older adults. Falls are a leading cause of injury and death for older adults. Hospitalization or extended periods of recovery and rehabilitation after an injury will limit an older adult’s mobility, reduce their independence and impact their quality of life.
That’s the bad news. The good news is, falls are preventable, and the Erie County Department of Health and the Department of Senior Services are sharing these practical ideas for older adults and caregivers interested in reducing their risk of falls and falls-related injuries.
Falls happen where most people spend their time: at home! Senior Services has a home safety booklet online, and can mail this on request. Call 716-858-8526 or email [email protected]. This detailed booklet walks through – literally – how to identify potential safety hazards in the home, and steps to take to reduce the risk of falls.
Some changes might be relatively simple, like removing throw rugs or moving items from high shelves to more accessible counters or cabinets in the kitchen. Others take time and planning, like adding grab bars near toilets and showers or bathtubs, or repairing an uneven concrete walkway.
“Each home hazard that can be identified and addressed takes away a risk of a devastating injury,” Commissioner of Senior Services Angela Marinucci said. “Broken bones and injured joints may heal eventually, but they can have a lasting and negative impact on a person’s mobility, cause constant pain, and put them at risk for future falls and injuries.”
Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein explained, “We have to acknowledge the risks of brain injury in a fall, as well. Concussions and head trauma from a fall can cause memory and cognitive issues. If you or someone you know falls and hits their head, or cannot remember a head injury, see a doctor right away.”
Senior Services has a series of videos that review safety topics and tips for older adults and caregivers. These include identifying home hazards; how medications relate to falls; proper footwear; exercise and strength-building exercise; and, how nutrition can affect falls.
Senior Services also has the Club 99 fitness schedule, with classes in many Erie County towns. Club 99 has a virtual exercise class every day from 9-10 a.m. Call 716-858-6403 for more information. And a “workout from home” video series featuring Mr. Fitness, Richard Dewald, demonstrates simple strength-building exercises that older adults can work into their regular day.
Older adults should also consider getting a regular eye and hearing exams. Uncorrected eyesight, eye conditions like glaucoma and cataracts, and hearing loss can make walking unsteady and negatively affect balance. And, at doctor’s visits, ask how medications and medical conditions might affect balance and motor control. Doctors can suggest mobility aids, like canes or walkers, and make referrals to physical or occupational therapy.
And finally, winter conditions create slippery walkways and parking lots.
“Wear well-fitting, weather appropriate shoes or boots when going outside,” Marinucci said. “Now is the time to prepare for winter conditions, too, by having a plan to clear a driveway or walkway of snow and ice, and making arrangements for home delivery of groceries or medications in case of severe weather.”
√ Erie County Department of Senior Services, falls prevention: https://www3.erie.gov/seniorservices/falls-prevention
√ National Institute on Aging, falls and fractures in older adults: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/falls-and-fractures-older-adults-causes-and-prevention
√ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adult fall prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/falls/index.html.