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Fall prevention as we age

Over the past few years I have become much more aware of those aging around me. Friends, parents, other family and acquaintances continue to march toward their golden years (including myself). If we are fortunate, we will approach these aged years in life gracefully, maintaining our independence, living on our own terms.

Unfortunately, the fire department must respond many times a week for residents who have fallen and injured themselves. Sometimes these falls require nothing more than a bandage and some aspirin. Others require transport to a hospital, surgical procedures and rehabilitation. Grim statistics show that nearly 60% of older adults who fall will end up having to go to a long-term care facility for recuperation.

We offer the following tips to help you maintain your independence:

  • Exercise to stay strong and improve balance.
  • Keep your medical appointments. Things like poor vision increase your chance of falling. Side effects of medications can affect your balance and coordination. Plugged ears can give you vertigo. Talk to your doctor about previous falls.
  • Don’t rush! Take your time when getting out of bed or a chair. Stand for a moment to adjust to this new position and to get your balance. Use assistive devices as needed.
  • Keep trip hazards out of the way. Electrical cords, shoes, books, boxes, pets, toys and other items can all trip you up causing an injury.
  • Set yourself up for success, and move items out of walkways as soon as you are done using them.
  • Wear well-fitted, non-slip shoes.
  • Secure loose rugs with non-slip backing.
  • Don’t walk through the house in the dark. By keeping a light on when walking around, you will see the things that could potentially cause you to trip.
  • Put a non-slip mat in the bathtub or shower, and if you need them, have grab bars installed.
  • Be cognizant of uneven surfaces and make sure there are sturdy handrails installed on stairs.

If you do fall:

  • Remain calm. Take a few moments to assess your situation.
  • Getting up too quickly or in the wrong position may make an injury worse.
  • If you are dizzy or in a lot of pain, do not get up. Yell for help or call 9-1-1 if a phone is within reach.

While the fire department hopes we will never have to visit you in an official capacity, please know that we are always here to help you in your time of need.

David Shepherd is the Fire Chief and can be emailed at david.shepherd@ashland.or.us

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