November is fall prevention month

A whole month dedicated to preventing falls? Are falls really such a big problem? Yes, in fact it is estimated that every year in Quebec, approximately 30 percent of persons aged 65 and over suffer a fall while living at home, which represents nearly 400,000 cases.

Falls can have very serious consequences for the individuals who experience them and also for their families, in addition to incurring high costs for our society.

Most falls don’t result in serious injuries, but even those cases can have major consequences, for example if a person living alone cannot get back up after falling down. Approximately one third of individuals who suffer a fall are unable to get back up without help.

In about 10 percent of cases, a fall results in serious injuries, most commonly fractures of the lower limbs. All too often, a hip fracture means a loss of autonomy and having to be placed in a long-term care facility. Even worse that than, approximately 20 percent of elderly individuals who suffer a hip fracture pass away within a year of their fall.

Since many falls can be avoided, fall prevention campaigns are designed to raise people’s awareness of the consequences of a fall, and giving them tools to prevent them. The ultimate goal is to preserve elderly people’s autonomy, mobility and health.

How can we prevent falls at home? Here are some factors to assess:

  • In order to clearly see obstacles, it’s important to get regular eye exams and to change eyeglasses when necessary.
  • At home, make sure to keep hallways free of any obstacles by removing unnecessary objects and rugs on which a person could trip. Do the same with staircases and the entranceway.
  • Proper lighting can also help us see obstacles more clearly and therefore avoid them.
  • Bathroom grab bars are very useful for getting up from the toilet or bathtub. If they aren’t sufficient help for getting out of the tub, it is best to have a shower instead. A specially designed chair can be placed in the shower if needed.
  • In order to walk steadily, it is essential to wear proper footwear. In the winter, wearing cleats can help prevent slipping on icy surfaces.
  • Some types of medication can increase the risk of a fall by causing dizziness or drowsiness. When taking a new medication, speak to the pharmacist to make sure to understand its effects and take precautions if necessary.
  • It’s a good idea to avoid any sudden changes in position (for example, getting up from the table suddenly), because this can cause temporary dizziness that could result in a loss of balance.
  • As the old saying goes, there’s no use in running! When moving around indoors or outdoors, it’s best to take our time.

For more information on preventing falls, visit http://fallpreventionmonth.ca/

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