With winter just around the corner, it’s more important than ever to take care, and to watch your step when out and about. However, being observant isn’t always the key to staying safe – indeed, being too cautious can also lead to accidents, especially if that caution leads to decreased physical activity and a loss of fitness.
Some medicines, particularly when used in conjunction with other medication, have been found to contribute to a loss of balance, and therefore increase the chance of falling. Typical injuries which result from slip and fall accidents are fractured bones, brain injuries, and/or dislocated joints.
The worst culprits are the psychotropics – such as anti-depressants and benzodiazepines – which, according to Yale geriatrician, Dr Mary Tinetti, can directly affect your balance. In addition, another very common medication for people over the age of 70, this time for hypertension, is known to cause dizziness if they experience a significant drop in blood pressure. Another offender is sleep medication, which is known to give people an unsteady bearing.
The risk of serious injury from falls among those who are taking these types of medication is considerably higher than for those who are not, so it could be beneficial to arrange an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss your prescriptions, and see if they are all absolutely necessary. Even if they are, you may well be able to reduce your dosage; however, it must be stressed that you should always speak to your doctor before making any changes to your medication.
The best way however, to ensure you don’t take a tumble is to stay as physically fit as possible. This is especially true for seniors; in fact many experts have said that older people should take as much care over their physical fitness as they do over their hearts – the better your physical condition, the less likely a fall is.
Here are our tips for staying safe this winter, both indoors and out.
Incorporating strength and balance techniques into your daily life may sound like hard work but it really doesn’t have to be; simply standing on one leg when doing the dishes or cleaning your teeth is a great way to improve balance. If you can’t manage that, then stand with one foot in front of the other instead of side-by-side.
Tai Chi is a great way of not only improving balance and strength but also co-ordination and flexibility too, and is gentle enough for people of all ages and degrees of mobility. In New York City, there are several Tai Chi classes for seniors. For example:
Classes are offered at various locations, with some free classes for cancer patients and survivors.
- Fort Tryon Park, Linden Terrace, Manhattan
Free sunrise classes in the park (although bad weather means classes will be cancelled, so do check beforehand).
There may be other classes in your particular area – a quick Google search will be able to tell you.
Many gyms offer discounted exercise classes for seniors – these also have the added bonus of opportunities to socialize. If the gym is too daunting, then investing in a Bosu ball or balance trainer means you can get fitter in the privacy of your own home.
Swimming is another great all-round exercise, and while it won’t directly help with balance, it is a great way to build up all-round strength and co-ordination. Again, many pools offer senior-only sessions, usually at discounted prices.
Getting enough sleep is paramount to being fit and healthy, so if sleeping pills are not strictly necessary but you still have trouble sleeping, try drinking a glass of warm milk before bed – the amino acids are known to aid restful sleep. Listening to relaxing music is a great way to prepare yourself for a restful night, as are audio books. And if you have to take diuretics, take them during the day so that your sleep is not interrupted by having to visit the bathroom at night.
Vitamin D, which is manufactured in the body through exposure to sunlight, or can be taken in supplement form, has been shown to improve balance and muscle strength, which in turn, reduces the risk of falling over.
Drinking plenty of water will help to keep you properly hydrated (and helps prevent headaches too) – this is particularly important if you are in a centrally-heated building. Dehydration can lead to dizziness, and to falls.
Take your time getting out of a chair or bed; dizziness can occur if you stand up too quickly, so don’t be in a hurry to answer the phone or the door.
Do you have rugs on the floor? If so, it might be a good idea to remove them so that you don’t trip on them. By the same token, don’t leave things lying around on the floor, and especially not on the stairs. If you have children visit, make sure they tidy their toys away (it’s good practice for them anyway!).
Finally, do make sure you’re up to date with your eye examinations. Ideally, you should be getting checked annually at the very least. And make sure that when you’re out, you only wear single vision glasses. While bifocals and progressive lenses can be a boon indoors when reading, watching TV, cooking, doing handicrafts, etc. outdoors they have been linked to being a cause of missteps, which can lead to falls.
Even the fittest and most diligent person could become the victim of a slip and fall accident in New York City, so if you or someone you know finds themselves in this unfortunate situation, it’s imperative you – or they – seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Call us today on 212-221-5999 for a free, no-obligation consultation, and our expert slip and fall lawyers at Antin, Ehrlich, and Epstein LLPwill determine the best course of action for you . Alternatively, you can email us with your query.