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"Tips to Keep Veterans from Falling Down"

Veterans Health Administration - 

by Hans Petersen
Monday, June 15, 2015

You can help to prevent falls by making your health a priority.

Health problems, and changes in your vision, walking, and even balance are a few reasons why you may become more likely to fall. Taking certain kinds of medications may also increase your risk of falls. Improving your health, exercising, and taking safety precautions can help you avoid a fall. Talk to and work with your health care provider to manage health problems and to review your medications. If you have your health under control, your risk of falling is lessened.

How health problems can increase your fall risk.

Health problems like low blood sugar, high or low blood pressure, muscle weakness, low endurance, and joint pain are examples of symptoms that may result from chronic health conditions or diagnoses that you are living with. They can be managed, but they don’t go away. Chronic health problems put you at greater risk of a fall. This is because they can affect many parts of your body. They may cause problems with movement, balance, or vision.

Do you get weak or dizzy? Tell your health care provider.

Your health care provider can work with you to help prevent a fall. Notify your provider if you have symptoms such as leg weakness or dizziness that could raise your risk of falling. Have your provider or pharmacist review all the medicines you take, even 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 cause you to fall.

Discuss your concerns, health practices, nutrition, and exercise routine with your health care provider. And ask whether you need any tests to assess your risk of falling.

Any medication, even an over-the-counter medication, could increase your risk of falling.

Medications — even ones you buy over the counter — can cause side effects that lead to a fall. Common medications that can cause these kinds of side effects include blood pressure, heart, pain, and sleep medications, and antidepressants. Also, the way your body reacts to medications can change as you age. So certain medications that were fine in the past may cause side effects now. Your health care provider (such as your doctor or pharmacist) can help review your medications and make changes if needed.

Old glasses and inner ear problems can affect balance.

Problems with vision or hearing can lead to falls, so do the following to reduce your fall risk:

Get your eyes checked at least once a 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 chances of falling. Take time to adjust to new glasses.

Get your hearing checked at least every other year.

Have your doctor check your inner ear for problems that may affect your balance.

Over 60% of falls happen at home and 30% happen out in the community.

To make your home safer:

Remove things you can trip over — like papers, books, clothes, and shoes — from stairs and places where you walk.

Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep rugs from slipping.

Keep items you use often in cabinets you can reach easily without using a step stool.

Have grab bars put in 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. As you get older, you need brighter lights to see well. Hang light-weight curtains or shades to reduce glare. Consider night lights or motion sensor lights.

Have handrails and lights put in on all staircases.

Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.

Consider padding sharp edges of furniture to prevent fall-related injuries.

Eat breakfast and drink plenty of water — unless you are on fluid restrictions.

If you don’t get enough to eat or drink, you can become dizzy and fall.

Your sense of thirst decreases with age, so drink water throughout the day.

Eat breakfast. Plan regular meals.

Ask your provider whether you need supplements. These can help strengthen your bones and muscles to help prevent falls. They can also help prevent fractures if you do fall.

Call your health care provider if you have these symptoms.

Be sure to call your health care provider if you fall and are hurt. Also, call if you have any of these signs, symptoms, or concerns:

Worrying about falling.

Feeling lightheaded or dizzy more than once a day.

Falling suddenly without getting dizzy.

Losing your balance often or feeling unsteady on your feet.

Having osteoporosis (brittle bones), which puts you at increased risk of fall injuries.

Taking blood thinners.

Feeling numbness in your legs or feet, or noticing a change in the way you walk.

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