How to avoid falls

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The weather has been relatively mild on the South Shore so far this year, but it’s time to brace for the storms that are almost certain to come in the near future. A couple of Massachusetts physical therapists, Ashley Saulnier and Kate Gebski, have some good advice for anyone who wants to avoid falls on slippery steps—or anywhere else.

One is every three adults over the age of 65 falls each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and those falls can lead to serious problems like hip fractures and permanent disabilities. People who have fallen before, or who have muscle weakness or use certain medications are particularly vulnerable to falls.

Saulnier and Gebski offer a variety of ways to reduce the chances of taking a bad fall. First, they say, staying active and exercising for greater strength and flexibility are important. A private practice nurse or home health care aide may be able to show you a few good exercises that are appropriate for your situation.

Other simple ways to make yourself safer are getting regular eye exams and avoiding bifocal or trifocal glasses when walking outside or on stairs, wearing supportive and comfortable shoes, and reviewing your medications to see if they have side effects like dizziness or drowsiness. It’s also important for older folks to get screened for osteoporosis, which can greatly increase the seriousness of a fall.

Some simple changes to your behavior and environment can also help. Get in the habit of carrying items in a backpack when you can to leave your hands free, and sit down instead of standing to do activities. Add some extra lights to dark stairwells, and avoid throw rugs, which can create tripping hazards. You can even make like a mountain climber and use attachable shoe spikes if you need to walk outdoors when there’s ice or snow on the ground.

Taking these kinds of precautions not only helps avoid falls, but it can give you more confidence so that you can stay active even if Mother Nature throws some storms this way before spring.

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