Yesterday at a holiday gathering I heard one more variation of an all-too-familiar story.
Dr. A, still a practicing physician in his mid-seventies, fell in his shower and was lying helpless, unable to get up or summon aid.
Fortunately, he was an old-fashioned family doctor – his patients could always speak to him directly during the 8–9am hour that he reserved for phone calls. Sure enough, when at 8:10 his phone rang and rang without an answer, one of his astute patients knew something was amiss – Dr. A would never miss a patient call.
She phoned the police, who were able to enter his home and bring him to the hospital.
The sad truth is that 30–35% of seniors over age 65 fall each year. And falling can result in severe negative consequences, leaving you in pain, robbing you of basic life abilities (such as walking), hastening brain deterioration, and leading your health rapidly downhill.
There are four steps you need to take to prevent falls and minimize their negative impact should they occur.
1. Strengthen your bones
Everyone knows that taking supplemental calcium is a good idea to ensure a healthier skeleton. Extra vitamin D helps too. But the nutritional support needed to maintain good bone density is far more complex – it involves balancing your body’s acidity.
2. Strengthen your muscles and balance
A commitment to systematic strength training has innumerable benefits for seniors – and for everyone else, too. Maintaining muscle mass helps avoid weight gain, improves cardiovascular health, prevents diabetes, boosts your mood, and keeps your hormones in balance.
Make sure to incorporate balance exercise too. That way you’ll strengthen the small supporting muscles of the feet, legs and spine while stimulating the brain and reducing your chance of a fall.
3. Get rid of booby traps in your home
Area rugs and runners with loose ends are responsible for many trips and falls in the home. The bathtub is a danger spot too. Here are some other tips.
4. Get a medical alert button
In case you do fall, you want to get medical help as soon as possible. A delay of even a few extra minutes could have a major effect on your ability to recover from an injury, stroke, or heart attack.
The solution that works for most people is a personal medical alert button. You wear one around your neck or on a wrist band. If you fall or if there’s another emergency, you can summon help simply by pushing a button.
Studies show that seniors who have a senior alert system in place live happier and healthier in their own homes for up to six years longer than their contemporaries.
Preparing for the contingencies of life makes good sense at any age. Taking these four steps will make a major contribution to the well-being of anyone enjoying his or her senior years.