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According to the National Council on Aging, falls are responsible for the greatest number of fatal and non-fatal injuries among older people in the United States. A bad fall can result in a head injury or broken hip, both of which can be serious for seniors. These injuries can be compounded if the person who has fallen lacks the strength to get up without help and remains on the floor for an extended period after their fall.

Falls can be caused by a variety of factors, many of them related to environment and lifestyle. Fortunately, this means that it is within nearly everyone's power to take steps to prevent falls and mitigate their damage when they do occur.

Stay Healthy

In addition to its myriad other benefits, exercise is a great way to mitigate the risk of falls. People who are physically active tend to have greater strength and balance, two things that can make a big difference in preventing falls in seniors. Even low-intensity exercise like walking can help maintain muscle mass.

Comprehensive fall prevention efforts should also take into account other health-related factors. For example, some medications (such as certain sedatives and antidepressants) can affect a person's balance. Further, conditions such as osteoporosis can exacerbate fall-related injuries. As part of their fall prevention program, seniors should check in with their doctors to identify and take steps to alleviate any health-related risk factors.

Eliminate Hazards at Home

A poorly designed home can present a serious threat when it comes to falls. Look at your environment with a critical eye: are there bumps in the carpet, or unsecured cords that someone could trip over? Are hallways and staircases well lit so that it's easy to see where you're going? Are there any slippery surfaces that might present a problem, such as bathtubs or hardwood floors?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you may need to fall-proof your home. Start by identifying trip risks and installing grab bars where needed. Consider buying yourself a medical alarm in the event of a fall, or carrying your cell phone with you at all times in the event that you do fall.

Fall-proofing your home may seem daunting, but you don't have to do it on your own. Fall prevention programs can be a great resource for at-risk seniors. Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance, and services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Visit our website for more information on our senior meals program or to download a copy or our energy assistance application.