Preventing Falls During the COVID-19 Pandemic

3/27/2020

Take time to complete a Home Falls Hazard Audit

There are many things within the home that can be adjusted to ensure your home environment is as safe as possible, significantly lowering the risk for falling. Use the checklist below from the Center for Disease Control STEADI Toolkit. 

Click here to view the checklist


Stay hydrated and eat enough protein

Dehydration and inadequate nutrition can cause dizziness and fluctuations in blood sugar both of which increase the risk for falling. Older adults should drink at least 64 ounces of fluid such as water or non-caffeinated beverages. Additionally, following a healthy, balanced diet that includes protein, fruits/vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains is very important. Current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram (g/kg) of body weight a day for adults over 18. But research is showing that higher levels may be needed for adults age 65+. Protein helps to keep muscles strong, which is important for maintaining the balance and mobility needed to continue to live independently as we age. Dietitian recommended sources of protein include: beans, legumes, wild salmon, eggs and Greek yogurt.


Sleep to lower fall risk and boost immunity.

Unfortunately, insomnia and other sleep problems increase with advancing age. Evidence suggests those who experience sleep problems are at a greater risk for falling. Most healthy adults over the age of 65 need 7-8 hours of sleep each night to feel well rested and alert. But as we age, our sleep patterns may change making it difficult to get the recommended amount. Additionally, appropriate amounts of sleep help the body’s immune system fight off infections such as the COVID-19 virus.

Here are a few tips to help you get the rest you need:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends.
  • Do not take naps longer than about 20 minutes.
  • Do not read, watch TV, or eat in bed. Only use your bedroom for sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine for about 8 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid nicotine and alcohol in the evening. Alcohol might help you to fall asleep, but it can cause you to wake in the middle of the night.
  • Do not lie in bed for a long time trying to go to sleep. After 30 minutes of trying to sleep, get up and go to a different room. Do something quiet, such as reading or listening to music. Do not do anything that stimulates your brain. Then, go back to bed and try to fall asleep.
  • Try to be active each day. Exercise can help you sleep better.
  • Ask your doctor if any of your medicines could be keeping you awake at night. Medicines that can disrupt sleep include antidepressants, beta-blockers and cardiovascular drugs. Never stop taking a medication without consulting your provider first.


Move slowly and be present in the moment.

When we change positions (i.e. transitioning from sitting to standing or lying down to sitting), our body needs time to adjust, specifically our blood pressure. As we age, the body’s ability for blood pressure to adapt and change to accommodate position change becomes a bit more sluggish. If we move too quickly, the body may not have time to adjust potentially causing lightheadedness and/or dizziness both of which put us at a greater risk for falling. Try to get into a habit of pausing for at least 5 seconds after you have changed positions before moving on, especially when transitioning from sitting to standing/walking as this poses the greatest opportunity for an episode of falling. Also, be present in the moment paying attention to what you are doing. Very few fall stories begin with “I was paying attention and moving slowly.” In this stressful time of worldwide pandemic, we may be distracted with our thoughts and concerns. This distraction can increase the risk for falling. Be mindful of your movements and present in the moment to avoid potential mishaps.


Always have a means of getting in contact with someone

Falls tend to happen when we least expect them and at the most inopportune times as well as at home. It is ALWAYS important to have a plan in place to get in contact with someone. Whether that be a cell phone that is always charged and, on your person, a safety alert system or an agreement with a neighbor or friend to check in with one another at a certain time each day, planning goes a long way.


Get into a routine of completing balance and/or strength exercises daily

Often, when we stay home more, we tend to sit more and move less. This decreased activity increases the risk for falling. By committing to a few simple exercises daily, you can maintain or increase strength and improve your balance ultimately lowering your risk for falling.


Here are a few simple but effective exercises to try today:


Additional Support and Resources

If you have falls prevention related questions/concerns or need additional resources for older adults during this challenging time, please contact Christie Geller at (614) 519-1108 or cgeller@copcp.com.

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