Six ways to prevent falls that could affect your mobility and independence

Falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians. Each year one in three Canadians age 65 or older will fall at least once and falls are the cause of 85 per cent of injury-related hospitalizations, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

Canadian seniors had over 80,000 fall-related hospitalizations and more than 235,000 emergency department visits for falls in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, says the CIHI. Falls are responsible for 95% of all hip fractures and half of all falls resulting in hospitalization happen at home, says the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

Falls among older adults can have a serious long-term physical and psychological impact, and can result in disability, chronic pain, loss of independence, reduced quality of life and even death, according to a report from Accreditation Canada, CIHI and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute.

Hands of the old womanMost falls can be prevented

Although people 65 years of age or older are at greater risk of falling, most falls can be prevented by modifying or managing risks such as poor balance, reduced muscle and bone strength, impaired vision or hearing, and unsafe conditions in and around your home, according to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Health Canada.

What you can do to prevent falls

1. Protect yourself at home. Considering using a rubber bath mat for the tub and shower, and install grab bars by the toilet and bathtub. In the kitchen, store heavy items in lower cupboards, use a stable stool with a safety rail for reaching high places, and wipe up floor spills right away to avoid slipping. Have good lighting around stairways and throughout the house, and install night lights.

2. Wear well-fitting, supportive footwear for better stability.

3. Use medications wisely. Consider asking your doctor or pharmacist about the possible side effects of your medications and read directions carefully. It’s also advisable to avoid mixing alcohol with your medications.

4. Use appropriate safety aids, if needed. If you have glasses or hearing aids, wearing them as prescribed can help prevent a fall. Also consider using a walker or a cane that has a rubber tip for added stability.

5. Eat healthy meals. Regular nutritious meals help keep up your strength, resistance and balance. Skipping meals can cause weakness and dizziness. Drinking enough fluids is also important.

6. Keep fit. Consider walking or do other physical activity each day. Tai Chi or other exercises can help maintain your flexibility and balance, and it’s also important to build or maintain your muscle and bone strength by doing resistance activities. You may want to consult with your doctor for advice on starting a new exercise program.