Avoiding the Slip: Reduce your risk of falling

I fell the other day! All because I wanted to go outside for a healthy walk on a warm winter day.

Well, that is not exactly the reason I fell. I fell because I was trying to be a good person.

Wait, that is not exactly right either. Here is what really happened. There is a narrow path between my neighborhood and the park where I was going to walk. I was heading up the path and an older couple was coming down the path. There was not room for all of us on the path, so I stepped off, onto the wet leaves to let them pass. As soon as my foot hit the wet leaves, I felt it start to slide. As much as I tried, I was unable to regain my balance and down I went. Stopped myself with my left hand and my right knee.

Image by Teresia Moore

When I looked up, the faces of the older couple showed such concern, I knew that my fall had been less than graceful. I was able to get myself up, and feeling completely embarrassed, I told them I was ok and continued on to the park.

Before I got too far, I stopped to pull up my pant leg and check out my knee. It was scrapped but not bleeding. That was good. I was determined to get my walk in. My knee was sore so I walked a bit more slowly than usual, but I did my three laps.

By the time I got home my knee was throbbing. I put an ice pack on it and took some Tylenol. Every time I got up or tried to change position, I felt my knee stiffening up. I treated it several more times with an ice pack, hoping to keep the swelling down and by the morning, I did feel much better.

My fall got me to thinking about how in life we fall and get back up. I think that is a discussion for another blog. For this discussion, I want to focus on the greater risks we face as we get older, when it comes to falls.

According to the CDC

  • One out of 5 falls causes a serious injury such as a broken bone or head injury.
  • Each year, 3 million older adults are treated in ERs for fall injuries.
  • Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury.

You know me, I do not take on the mindset of being old. I also embrace the wisdom of getting older and recognize that we don’t “bounce” like we used to. So, I continued my research.

Risk factors that could contribute to falls.

  • Lower body weakness
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Difficulties with walking and balance
  • Some medicines can affect balance.
  • Vision problems
  • Foot pain or poor footwear
  • Slippery, wet surfaces
  • Home hazards, such as throw rugs or other items that can be tripped over.

Please don’t just scan this list. Think about it as you read down the list. Here is my personal analysis of each item and what I can do about it. I certainly do not want to fall again!

Lower body weakness: I do a lot of sitting in front of the computer and my left leg has been giving me trouble for several years. I have gone the PT route, and I do try to go out for regular walks. I am now going through some other tests to determine the cause of the leg pain so I can figure out what to do about it.

I recently had a physical and my Vitamin D levels are good. I also take a supplement so that the level stays good.

I am not taking any medications that cause dizziness or balance issues and my vison is ok.

However, balance has always been an issue for me. Even as a young child, I couldn’t roller skate or water ski. And I was always falling off my bike. I must have been absent when they were handing out the coordination genes. I have rarely let this stop me though. I love hiking and although I may hike more cautiously now, I still love being out in the woods.

Slippery, wet surfaces, like the wet leaves I stepped onto. Wet bathroom floors, slippery sidewalks, icy sidewalks, all of these are risk factors. In the future, I will think about it before I step out onto slippery leaves or other slippery surfaces. Testing it first makes a lot of sense.

That leaves the home hazards. I have been aware for a while that I needed to replace the rugs in my bathroom. I have almost tripped on them several times. As a result of my fall, I ordered new rugs from Amazon that have nonskid linings. They should be here today. My other home hazard is my sweet cat, Pepper. Sometimes she gets a wild hair and will speed run from one end of the house to the other. If I am in the way, she does not stop. I stop and move out of her way. Otherwise, I would definitely get tripped up.

So, what have I learned from this fall?

Falls happen when we least expect it. Could my fall have been prevented? As I said, I could have checked to see how slippery the leaves were before stepping onto them. The thought never crossed my mind. I suspect it will next time.

I also realize that I am lucky to have not been more seriously hurt. As a kid or even as a young adult, we would fall, get a bandage, and keep going. As I am approaching 70 this year, I realize that I need to be more careful and that a bandage will not always be the fix. Being prepared and doing what we can to mitigate our risks is part of being wiser.

Your Turn

I hope to not become one of the fall statistics I mentioned earlier. I hope you are not one of the fall statistics either. Remember, we are never too old to dream a new dream or set a new goal. How about setting a goal to reduce your risk of falls? Which of the risk factors could you take some action on?

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