Freedom. Independence. That very simple concept has sparked many a revolution and one that our country was founded on. The first Americans who celebrated Thanksgiving were thankful for the bountiful harvest they experienced while pursuing their personal freedoms. As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday and enjoy time with our families and friends, there is a much more personal connection to that idea of freedom and independence. How much longer will we be independent enough to cook the Thanksgiving meal, to shop for Christmas presents, to drive to the holiday gathering?

From the time we are small children, our goal is to become as independent as possible. We can all think of a 2-year-old whom we’ve known and think back to his strong desire to dress, feed himself, carry his own backpack, be the master of his own destiny! Not only does that not change as we get older, but we may cling to our independence like a life preserver. We all want to maintain the independence we seek throughout our lives forever, and the idea of perhaps needing to leave a home we love may become frightening. Staying healthy and strong is truly the key to maintaining our independence. It should be easy, but as we get older, we really have to be purposeful to stay healthy and not to injure ourselves. In particular, the number one thing we need to remember as we are getting older is DON’T FALL!

It sounds crazy, but it is true. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, each year over 3 million older Americans are treated for an injury in the ER from falls. When injury does occur, we often end up in rehab trying to heal and regain our strength. In one of five falls, some type of traumatic injury occurs. (CDC) A local hospital reports that 85% of people whom they see in their rehab department had a fall.

Keys to fall prevention:

  1. Keep Moving!
    • Exercise such as walking can help keep us mobile and nimble.
    • Exercises like yoga and Pilates that improve core strength and balance are ultra-helpful for fall prevention.
  2. Properly equip your home!
    • Install grab bars in your bathroom.
    • Use nightlights in bedrooms, bathrooms, and halls at night.
    • Eliminate trip hazards such as throw rugs
    • Be careful to not trip over your furry friend!
  3. Stay Healthy!
    • See your doctor regularly.
    • Use a notebook to remember your questions and write down the answers.
    • Take a friend. Four ears are better than two.
    • Have your doctor or pharmacist review your meds for interactions.
  4. Ask for help!
    • Use volunteer organizations or pay a professional or neighborhood kid to help with yard work or cleaning gutters. Don’t get on a ladder!
    • Sometimes changing the sheets on beds, vacuuming or walking up and down basement stairs to do laundry is more dangerous than useful. Consider hiring a housekeeper or exchanging what you can do well with a younger relative. “I’ll cook for you twice a week if you help me with my housekeeping.”

Sadly, once we have fallen, it is common to become fearful of falling again, and unfortunately, we fall more often. Having some simple fall prevention strategies in place to keep yourself from falling in the first place, should be your first line of defense against premature aging and injuries.

Pam Foti, Owner and Elder Care Consultant