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Preventing Falls

My frail father fell in his home six months ago and got lucky to escape without a serious injury. But I’m worried he might fall again. How can I help (especially since I can’t be there all of the time)?
Polly in Oklahoma, 51


Preventing falls is all about being proactive. It’s important to get your father physically stabilized. Most elderly fall when they are stressed and tired, or if their environment and/or mind are cluttered. So you have to make sure your father stays as active as he can. His mind and muscles and bone structure all need to be working together.

The body was made to move. The more your father moves, the more he sends healthy messages to his body to cooperate. Inactivity decreases strength and can cause a person to have a real fear of falling, and that could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I encourage some sort of regular exercise program for all of my clients, with the consent of their doctor, of course. It need not include going to a gym and lifting heavy dumbbells. In fact, I often use one-pound bags of beans for the weight. They are certainly more affordable and comfortable to use. Your father could hold the bags and move his arms in a relaxed, slow manner so that his muscles don’t atrophy.

Additional activities might include regular walking as well as deep breathing exercises. Both help the blood system and brain remain sharp. I also have my clients practice getting in and out of a chair by themselves to gain strength and confidence.

It’s important to clear any clutter from your dad’s home. Throw rugs and scatter rugs have to go. So do any extension cords that are laid out across the floor. Also be sure to install grab bars in his shower/tub and around the toilets.

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