Fear of falling and the cycle of increasing risk N

ovember is fall prevention month and there’s a very good reason why a whole month is set aside

to raise awareness about the risk of falling. One in three seniors over the age of 65 falls every year and it’s the leading cause of injury hos- pitalization in Manitoba, ac- counting for $265 million in healthcare spending. A 2017 Government of Manitoba Report on falls also found that of those hospitalized, nearly 31 percent are later transferred to personal care homes. The reality of those risks

can create a palpable fear of falling that intensifies as we age, affecting up to 60 per- cent of older adults. And if you’ve expe- rienced a fall or know someone who has, that fear may have already taken root. Real or perceived, the fear of falling often translates into a loss of confidence while doing everyday activities, especially any- thing physical. Whether it be walking to the mailbox in the morning to get the pa- per or rushing to answer the door, a slight trip over a loose mat could mean a broken hip and months of recovery in the hospi- tal. For those who cherish independence and aging in place - it can be a source of stress and anxiety. Consequently, older adults tend to cut back on physical activities. This not only lessens their quality of life but can ultimately increase their risk of falling as physical conditioning declines; reduc- ing energy, strength and balance. In an online Psychology Today article posted in 2013, a research study on the fear of falling affirmed that, “As people do less, they become less able to engage in activi-

Krystal Stokes Healthy Living

ties. They have difficulty moving around, and their gait and balance deteriorates. This puts them at an increased risk of fall- ing, which unfortunately means the fear of falling actually becomes a self- fulfilling prophecy.” And that’s how the well-documented, vi- cious cycle of increasing risk begins. So how can we break the cycle? Edu- cating yourself and talk- ing with your doctor to discuss risk provides the best defense against falls. There are several things that you can do today to reduce your risk of fall- ing and the best place to start is in your own home.

According to the Government of Mani- toba’s preventing falls web page, here are some proactive steps to consider: • In consultation with your doctor or a physiotherapist, develop an exercise plan to improve balance, muscle strength and mobility. Consider looking into lo- cal community resources like the City of Winnipeg’s Leisure Guide, as disciplines such as Tai Chi have been shown to re- duce fall risk. Improved physical condi- tioning can go a long way in restoring confidence. • Remove hazards in and around your home like loose mats and scatter rugs. • Review all medications with your

doctor or pharmacist. • Eat regular healthy meals. • Take a vitamin D supplement. • Manage chronic health conditions. • Determine reasons for feeling dizzy. • Choose supportive and safe foot-

wear. • Have your eyes checked regularly by

your optometrist or ophthalmologist. • Use assisting devices to help address sensory and physical impairments. And finally, consider using a medical alert service. The service provides the subscriber with a personal help button, which connects them to a response centre 24 hours a day. A two-way voice commu- nication unit is also installed in the home, and the subscriber can speak directly to a response associate who will then contact EMS or a friend/family member depend- ing on the situation. The button can give some much needed psychological reassur- ance and peace of mind for the subscriber knowing they can access help in an emer- gency. If the fear of falling is intensifying, Victoria Lifeline offers HomeSafe with AutoAlert, the most widely adopted fall detection technology on the market to- day. The button is designed to detect up to 95% of falls and can automatically*

place a call for help even if you can’t. (Au- toAlert does not detect 100% of falls. If able, users should always push their but- ton when they need help.)

Because everyone deserves to feel safe

at home, Victoria Lifeline is offering one month of AutoAlert free for anyone who signs up in November. To watch a video on how the service works visit victorial- To sign up and take advantage of this limited time offer, call (204) 956- 6777 or toll-free 1-888-722-5222. For information on preventing falls visit jury/fallspreventionplan.pdf Krystal Stokes is the communications and public relations manager at Victoria Life- line, a community service of the Victoria General Hospital Foundation. This article is meant to be informational in nature and should not replace the advice of a trained healthcare professional.

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