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What kinds of things can cause falls?
It's not completely understood why older people fall, but we do know that falls generally result from the interaction of multiple things. The risk factors that are most commonly associated to falls include weakness, muscle weakness, specifically of the lower legs, medications, any kind of visual deficit, a history of falls, any kind of walking deficit, using an assisted device, arthritis, depression, memory deficits, being over the age of 80, as well as any kind of neurologic deficit or cardiovascular deficit. And the more of those risk factors that you have, the higher your risk of falling is.
After a fall, should I limit my activities?
After a fall, you can absolutely be injured physically, but there are also a number of other social and psychological consequences that can be more detrimental. Many times people have a fear of falling and they limit all their regular activities, which can really decrease the quality of life.
Can medications put me at risk for falls?
Some medications can put you at an increased risk for falls, so you should absolutely have your doctor review your medication on a regular basis, especially if you've had any new changes in your medication or have had any changes in the dosage of medication. Many medications have dizziness listed as one of the side effects, so you should be very aware of any changes in medication because it may affect your balance and your safety. I would also recommend that you have a list of your current medications available to you at all times, as well as a list of the over-the-counter medications or any herbal supplements that you may take so that any health provider that you come in contact with will have a current list of your medications.
Is there anything else I can do to prevent falls?
Vision is a crucial component to people's balance. So getting your vision checked at least on a regular yearly basis, as well as if you have any new changes in your vision, or if you have any sudden changes in your hearing.
What can I do around my house to stay safe?
There are several suggestions that I have to make your house a little more fall proof. Number one would be to make sure that you have a safe pathway. Remove the clutter and have night-lights to make sure you have good lighting, especially around the stairs or changes in the surface or floors. Throw away or safely tape down any throw rugs that may cause someone to trip. If you have any unstable furniture, avoid using it for balance. Install grab bars in the bathroom. Don't just use the towel bar. And you want to avoid any risky behaviors such as climbing up on chairs or getting up on ladders. Many ER visits result from people getting up onto a chair to reach into something in the cabinet when they could've done it in a safer way.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's senior health services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about senior health, read the Senior Health News archive.