Dr. Reed Q & A – Falls & Preventative Measures

Reed V. Tuckson, MD, is Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs at UnitedHealth Group. A Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Dr. Reed is a nationally recognized speaker on preventive health and clinical medicine.

Q:   Dear Dr. Reed:

My mother is 78 years old, and I am her primary caregiver. Recently, Mom caught her walker on a rug in my home, and nearly fell. Are there preventive measures we should take to keep Mom safe when visiting my home?

A:   I applaud you for your concern and willingness to create a safe environment for your mother in both your home and hers.

You have a right to be concerned, as falls among older people often lead to devastating consequences.

Here are five key things you can do:

  •  Shoes: Kneel down and hold your mom’s foot in your hand, and ensure her shoes fit well and have flat, nonslip soles.
  • Floors and Stairs:  Move all throw rugs from the walking area; keep hallways free from clutter; install hand rails on both sides of the stairways; and insure there is adequate lighting.
  • Sight and Hearing:  Make sure your mom has had her vision and hearing checked recently.  Remember that poor hearing and vision are often the most common causes of falls among the elderly.
  • Medication Considerations:  Review your mother’s prescription and over-the-counter drugs with a health care provider. Remember, some medications working alone or together can contribute to drowsiness or instability, which could lead to a fall.
  • Exercise: Many people don’t realize weakness and balance problems among elderly people can be addressed even through moderate levels of exercise.  Of course, consult her physician to get guidance on the best exercise for her and the appropriate level of intensity.

Preventing falls among the elderly is a great example of the old axiom that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

For more tips go to www.aarphealthandwellness.com. And don’t forget to implement these tips when Mom returns to her home.

Do you have questions about your health? There is so much information out there that it can be hard to make sense of it all and, more importantly, apply it in our own lives. Dr. Reed Tuckson, Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs at UnitedHealth Group, hears this all the time as he travels the country speaking about preventive healthcare and clinical medicine and talking to readers of the “Ask Dr. Reed Q&A” column or his book, The Doctor in the Mirror. Dr. Reed cannot provide individual responses but he may address your idea in a future column, which you can read right here on Facebook. If you are seeking personal advice, please consult your doctor, specialist, or nurse.