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Preventing Falls

by Emily Piven Haltiwanger, OTD, MHE, OTR

• In the bedroom, remove any wheels from your bed to position it lower to the floor. This will make getting in and out of bed easier and safer.

(Click here for fall prevention resources.)

Prevention is the best medicine, but sometimes accidents happen in spite of the best-laid plans. To make sure you can get help quickly, get in the habit of carrying a cell phone (even in the house and around the yard), or consider wearing an alerting device (such as Life Alert) to call for help in case you fall.

Taking control
Talking with your doctor is a good first step toward fall prevention. Ask for a referral to an occupational or physical therapist if you think you might benefit from such a visit. Medicare or Medicaid may cover a home visit from a therapist for a fall-risk assessment. If you have friends, family members, or neighbors who receive therapy services, check to see who they know and recommend. Check your telephone directory or the Internet for practitioners in your area, or contact services for the elderly in your community.

If you are feeling depressed about changes in your health or are afraid of falling, you are not alone. Falling is one of the most common fears among older adults. One Finnish study showed that people who are depressed run twice the risk of falling and sustaining fractures compared with people who are not depressed.

Depression and anxiety are treatable, however. So rather than live with depression, get help from a mental health professional. Psychotherapy (talk therapy) can help you learn new ways to cope with the stresses and problems in your life.

Remember that the key to preventing falls is to be informed about your risks and proactive in acting to reduce them, both at home and at the doctor’s office. Do everything in your power to preserve your health and independence. You’ll never know what you prevent, and when it comes to falls, it’s much better not to know.

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