Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To Prevent Falls: Declutter Your House

Nothing affects someone's care more than a serious fall, whether it involves the caregiver or the loved one they are responsible for. Such a fall can land someone in the hospital and require weeks or months of convalescence.

There are things you can do to minimize the chances of a fall, at least within your home.

Modify Your Environment
First and foremost, declutter. Remove ottomans that someone can trip over. Take away tables with sharp edges that someone's cane or clothing can catch on. Make sure dining chairs are tucked in when not in use. Also, remove loose rugs and, if you must, replace them with coverings that have a stronger floor grip. Make sure there are no cables, furniture, plants or other obstacles in hallways and high-traffic areas.

Worried about stairs? Put up "toddler gates" to keep someone from wandering up or down them.

Watch the Medications
"Family and caregivers need to understand every medication has side effects," internist Neil Levine told caregivers during last week's Town Hall Forum in San Marcos. Some medications could impact a person's balance. This includes anti-depressants. Others, such as sleep aids, may induce sleepwalking. Ambien, for instance, has been known to cause psychomotor cognition problems that can make someone fall. Dr. Levine recommends if a person cannot sleep with up to 10 mgs, get rid of the medication. Blood pressure medication also can cause dizzy spells with changes in dosages. Talk to your physician to see if there's a way to reduce side effects.

Get Some Sun
Lack of vitamin D has been linked to falls due to weak muscles and bones. We each should get 1000 units daily, preferably from different sources and not just supplements. In addition to milk and dairy products -- particularly eggs -- exposure to sunlight is a great way to soak up this important nutrient.

Eat a Balanced Diet
Along the same lines, make sure an elderly person's diet includes protein. Most people have no problem eating enough carbohydrates, but protein is another story. Some continue to bypass daily products because of cholesterol concerns. One way to make sure 40% to 50% of their diet is from protein is to introduce protein shakes, such as Muscle Milk, into their meal plan. The chocolate-flavored Viactiv chews and even peanut-filled Reese's Pieces will work too. And who doesn't like chocolate, right?!