See Your Way to Fall Prevention

Every 18 seconds, an older adult is treated in an emergency department for a fall. Not surprisingly, once you’ve fallen, you are then two to three times more likely to fall again the next year, and an unwelcome cycle has begun. When it comes to falls, as with many health issues, there are simple, positive steps you can take to reduce your risk. In addition to strength and balance, which we’ve covered before, eye sight, too, can play a role in avoiding a fall and maintaining your independence.

“Our eyes change constantly, but usually gradually. A problem can crop up before we’re even aware of it,” said Todd Johnston, MD, The Eye Center. "Something as simple as updating glasses can make a large difference in deterring falls.

"We don’t know how large a part vision plays in fall prevention, but in one randomized study, a first eye cataract surgery was shown to reduce falls by 34 percent and fractures by 67 percent. Cataracts are the most common and treatable cause of low vision in older adults, followed by glaucoma and macular degeneration,” explained Dr. Johnston. “All of these conditions can only be diagnosed by an eye physician, and early detection can improve or maintain vision for many years."

“Get your annual eye exam. Excellent lighting, such as lighted stairways and night lights, can also improve vision significantly,” he added. “Vision is a risk factor for falls that is within your control to improve.”

Maintain visual acuity with these simple steps:

  1. Have a dilated eye exam with a qualified ophthalmologist every year. If you have diabetes or other health conditions, your ophthalmologist may want to see you more often.
  2. Keep your lens prescription current. It may be comforting to have all those old eyeglasses handy, but if they’re not your current prescription they may do more harm than good. Donate them to your local Lions Club or other charity to be put to good use.
  3. Clean your lenses frequently and store your glasses properly. Use a soft, lint-free cloth to avoid scratching the surface of the lens. Take time to put your glasses in a protective case when they’re not needed.
  4. Monitor and correct eye problems if possible. If you do develop an eye condition such as glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration, your provider will closely monitor your condition and recommend treatment as needed. Follow your doctor’s professional advice.

For a free household assessment checklist, call GoldenCare at 425.226.4653 or visit www.valleymed.org.

More Fall Prevention Tips

  • Install handrails for the tub, shower and toilet.
  • Monitor your medications for side effects or drug-drug interactions such as drowsiness or confusion.
  • Beware of environmental conditions, including icy sidewalks or uneven walking surfaces.
  • Take classes to improve strength, coordination and balance, such as weight training or simple yoga, all offered at Valley Fitness Center.
  • Wear well-fitting footwear with non-skid soles, indoors and out.
  • Keep floors clear of potential hazards such as throw rugs, potted plants and electrical cords.
  • Do not climb ladders or stepstools. Store frequently used items within easy reach. If the roof needs repair or the gutters need cleaning, hire it out or enlist a neighbor. Your mobility and independence are too important to lose—and the ladder always wins.