Let’s Avoid Dangerous Falls in the New Year

brandon cantuOne New Year’s resolution that hopefully all of us can keep is to prevent dangerous falls. Each year, especially in the cold and icy months, a large number of emergency room patients experience injuries from preventable falls. According to the National Council on aging, every 11 seconds, an older adult goes to an emergency department for treatment from a fall injury. And many times the falls can lead to fatality.

Some injuries are life-changing, especially for those beyond age 65. Brandon Cantu, PTA for San Luis Valley Health, has worked with his fair share of patients who are injured due to falling. “Every year, I have the privilege to care for patients who are my friends and neighbors, and every year, I wonder how many of these injuries could have been prevented with finding balance.” What Cantu is referring to is one of the best ways to prevent a fall: find balance, with our minds and our bodies.

Cantu explains how finding confidence in your mind can lead to fall prevention. “Our minds need to strike a balance between never thinking we might fall to being so fearful that we make ourselves less agile.” He also explains how it is extremely critical to remain active. He lists out this advice, hoping some of our San Luis Valley friends and neighbors will adopt these New Year’s goals for 2022.

  • Exercise. It’s never too late to start. Consider lifting weights and resistance exercises such as push-ups, which build muscle.
  • Walk! Choose to use the stairs. Park far away from the store, church, or clinic entrance. Find a routine each day where you take stairs instead of elevators. Join other friends and socialize as you walk.
  • Strengthen your quad muscles. One way is by leaning against a wall, sliding down into a squat, then standing again and repeating. Another way is simply to squat while holding the back of a chair.
  • Improve your balance. Yoga, tai chi, Martial arts, or exercise classes at your local gym, Park and Recreation, senior center, or online are usually inexpensive and keep you socially engaged.
  • Get your vision and hearing checked. Clouded vision or impaired hearing may increase your chances of falling.
  • Check your medicines’ side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the possible side effects of medication. New medicines often lead to increased fall risk.
  • Remove tripping hazards. Never climb on stools or chairs that are not suitable. Use slip-resistant mats and update your bathroom, door handles, and grab bars. Wear shoes that won’t make you slip.
  • Use canes and walkers appropriately. Be sure to consult with your care team on how to use a cane or walker the correct way.

“Falls are a hidden epidemic in our society, but we have these preventable ways to avoid them, including slowing down and thinking ahead. Let’s hope 2022 is good to all of you as you put your best foot forward this year,” said Cantu. SLV Health Therapy Services may be reached at (719) 589-8100, and a list of providers, locations, and services can be found on their website page on slvh.org.