When I search for articles, seminars, webinars or conferences on fall prevention they always seem to be geared toward seniors. They focus on those in the age group of 50 and up. But falls can happen to anyone at any age. I know this is true because I have had a couple of falls in the last few years and I am in my forties. As a result, I have become much more aware of the way I live my life so that I can prevent more falls in my future.
For example, I don’t talk on my cell phone while walking with my white cane. Talking on the phone while trying to navigate and use proper mobility can cause major distractions and possibly a nasty fall.
Ten Tips and Suggestions To Prevent Falls
As we embark upon National Fall Prevention Awareness Day on September 22nd, I want to share some other tips and suggestions to help you as a blind or visually impaired person prevent falls regardless of your age. The theme this year is “Ready, Steady, Balance Prevent Falls in 2016.” This theme was chosen because of the importance of balance in preventing falls.
- First don’t be in denial. As I shared earlier, understand that anyone can have a fall and that includes you. Falls can happen to anyone, not just people who are in poor health, who are frail, or who are elderly. Once you recognize that then you can start to put things in place to prevent falls. I had my first major fall when I was in my late twenties. I was on public transportation, got distracted and was not paying attention to where I was going. Today, when I travel I work much harder at staying mentally focused and alert so that I can concentrate on my mobility. That means using my white cane properly, using hand rails, and keeping my conversation with others brief. It also means that if I am not feeling well or tired that day, I might not travel because not feeling physically well can cause a fall.
- Keep track of your eye condition. Know what is going on with your eyes and any medication for them that you need to take. Additionally, keeping track of medications in general is important. Some have side effects that could cause sleepiness, dizziness, fatigue or other things that impact your ability to stay steady on your feet.
- Take the time to let your eyes adjust to the change of light when coming inside., especially if you have low vision. I remember when I wore triple bifocals and had to use sun slip shades instead of sunglasses. Once I removed the sun shades, I would have to step over to the corner of the building’s entrance to let my eyes adjust to the indoor light before I proceeded on into the building. If I didn’t do this, I had difficulty seeing and I was subject to slipping and falling on the carpet, steps or floor of the building.
- Don’t be vain. Stop wearing high heels. When I first became blind, I got rid of my high heels. I noticed that due to my vision loss my stride was off and I was afraid of falling as a result. Today I wear flats, wedges or 1 inch heels. I still feel feminine but know that I am protecting myself from falling or slipping.
- Start an exercise program I have found that exercise is very helpful in fall prevention. I walk on my treadmill, ride on my exercise bike, use hand weights and do floor exercises on a regular basis. All of these activities help tone and strengthen my body. They also help with balance and over all motor skills.
- If you have stairs in your home, install or use the existing banister for support. In my home I have stairs and a very strong sturdy banister. I insisted on it when I purchased my home. So, I grab that banister each time I go up and down the stairs.
- Don’t carry too many things when going up and down steps. I have discovered that having too many items can cause me to slip and be off balance. So I put items in a tote bag and place on my shoulder or arm. This helps to leave my hands free. This is also good practice when you are out and about. Being loaded down with too many bags and especially heavy ones, put you off balance and cause a fall. If you do have to carry multiple bags distribute the weight, use a backpack or roller bag on wheels.
- Watch out for rugs and plastic runners. Most people have rugs or floor mats in their home. If they are not secure on the floor or carpet they can cause a fall. Additionally, I have plastic runners to protect my carpet. I am very mindful of them and watch my step as not to slip and fall. I check them from time to time to be sure they are securely in place on the carpet.
- Rearrange your furniture to promote safety and comfort. I have a town home and my dining room and living room are combined together. So I have left a lot of open space to walk and move around without bumping into the furniture and have also purchased furniture with rounded edges verses pointed edges to avoid bumps and bruises.
- Don’t leave shoes, bags, cords, or other items on the floor that you can easily trip over. If you live with friends or family encourage them to do the same.
As you can tell, my suggestions and tips for fall prevention have little to do with age or being a senior. It is more about lifestyle, awareness and planning. It is more about understanding that falls can happen to anyone at any time in life; but with some awareness, education and preparation they can be prevented. My tips are not exhaustive. So, share in the comment section what you do as a blind or visually impaired person to prevent a fall in your life. What things have you put in place to keep yourself safe from falls?
Some Fall Prevention Resources
Low Vision and the White Cane, A Tool for Fall Prevention
Protect Your Independence Create a Fall Prevention Plan