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Preventing falls among older adults

April 3, 2010
By SUE CRIDLAND, director of community education for HealthLink Littauer

According to the New York state Department of Health, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths, hospitalizations and emergency department visits among adults age 65 and older. Every day, two older New Yorkers die and 136 others are hospitalized because of falls.

Falls can result in lasting, serious injuries affecting mobility, independence and mental health. Some people think that falls are a normal part of aging and are not preventable. However, many falls can be prevented. By making changes in lifestyle and following some precautions, you can greatly lower your risk of falling.

1.) Begin a regular exercise program. Physical activity makes you stronger and helps you feel better. Exercises that improve balance and coordination (like Tai Chi) are the most helpful. Ask your doctor or health care provider about the best type of exercise program for you.

2.) Check your medications. Ask your doctor or health care provider to review all of your medications - including over-the-counter medicines. As you get older, the way medicines work in your body can change. Some medicines, or combinations of medicines, can make you sleepy or dizzy and can cause you to fall.

3.) Get an eye exam. You should visit an eye doctor at least once each year. You may be wearing the wrong glasses or have a condition like glaucoma or cataracts that limits your vision. Poor vision can increase your risk of falling.

4.) Make your home safer. Remove things you can trip over (like throw rugs, papers, books, clothes and shoes) from stairs and places where you walk. Use double-sided tape to keep rugs from slipping. Keep items you use often in cabinets that you can reach easily without using a step stool. Have grab bars installed next to your toilet and in the tub or shower. Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors. Improve the lighting in your home. Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare. Have handrails and lights put in all staircases.

5.) Keep your shoes on. It's safer to wear your shoes inside and outside of the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.

6.) Learn more. Attend a free program entitled "Fall Prevention" from 11 to 11:45 a.m. April 14, co-sponsored by Fulton County Office For Aging, HealthLink/Nathan Littauer Hospital and the YMCA. Transportation will be available - for more information or to attend, call the Office For Aging at 736-5650.

For more information on preventing falls, visit the New York state Department of Health Web site at

People can call HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120, e-mail the organization at, visit its Web site at, or visit its wellness center at 213 Harrison St. Ext. in Johnstown, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.



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