Home Mobility: It's all about planning
Danika Wilson, Occupational Therapist
“I don’t move like I used to”
According to the Center for Disease Control website, 1 out of every 3 people over 65 experiences a fall each year. Of these, only half report this to their health care provider. Alarmingly, people age 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely than those age 65 to 74 to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer. Do not wait for a trip to the emergency room to speak to your doctor! If you feel light-headed or dizzy when standing as this could be a medical concern such as a medication or blood pressure issue. Your doctor may also suggest an assessment for an inner ear condition called “Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo” for which there is successful treatment. Also, physical exercise is not just a social event. Increasing muscle strength not only increases endurance for daily activities, but also helps to protect bones from fractures, of which women are twice as likely to experience following a fall than men (CDC). Many organizations including senior centers and assisted living facilities have exercise programs geared toward the physiological demands of older adults.
“I knew I should have moved the…”
If you have experienced a fall, one of the first questions that should be asked is: “How can this incident be prevented in the future?” Common situations that arise include hurrying too fast, navigating obstacles (or pets) even when using a walker or cane, decreased lighting in pathways, and the lack of stable, secure handholds when and where they are needed. It is important to identify concerns before an accident happens. No one plans to break a hip! Look around you. Are there clear spaces to walk? Around doorways and stairs are there secure hand holds and/or areas to set objects to allow you to safely navigate steps? How about hallway lighting at night from the bedroom to bathroom? There are now many styles of night lights, both plug-in and LED battery operated, available to increase safe mobility. This also speaks to the eye’s ability to adjust from dark to light areas, requiring extra time to accommodate for these changes. How about once inside of the bathroom? Are there stable handholds near the commode? Bedside commodes can be used easily around a toilet as rails and be moved near the bed at night to increase safety during night-time urgency.
While Occupational Therapists take an individualized look at personal factors such as health conditions, environmental factors, and the activities in which people participate in order to promote independence and safety at home and in the community, a comprehensive checklist that can be used to identify and discuss common safety concerns with family or friends can be found at: http://www.rebuildingtogether.org/resource/age-in-place-checklist/