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Fall Prevention and Osteoporosis (cont.)

How Can I Protect Against Having a Broken Bone From a Fall?

The best way to avoid a broken bone is to avoid a fall. Certain safety tips are recommended by the National Institutes of Health:

Outdoor safety tips

  • When the ground is slippery or wet, such as in rainy or snowy weather, use a walker or cane for added stability and wear shoes with rubber soles for added traction.
  • When it is cold or snowy, wear warm boots (so the feet do not go numb) with rubber soles for added traction.
  • Pay attention to the floor in public buildings because many floors are made of highly polished marble or tile that can be very slippery, especially if the floor is wet.
  • Find and use delivery services, such as 24-hour pharmacies or grocery stores that take orders over the phone and deliver, especially in bad weather.
  • When going out, keep the hands free by using a shoulder bag, fanny pack, or backpack instead of a clutch purse or a bag or wallet held in the hands.
  • Always stop at curbs and check the height before stepping up or down. Be careful using walkways for wheelchairs, grocery carts, bicycles, etc., because the incline up or down may lead to a fall.

Indoor safety tips

  • Floor safety
    • Keep all rooms neat and tidy and especially keep things off the floors.
    • Floor surfaces should be smooth and level but not slippery. Always pay attention to changes in floor levels, especially at thresholds and in doorways.
    • Wear supportive shoes without high heels even at home. Avoid walking around in socks, stockings, or floppy slippers to avoid tripping or slipping.
    • Make sure all carpets and rugs are stuck to the floor or have skid-proof backing so they cannot slide around when someone steps on them.
    • Keep electrical cords and telephone lines out of the way.
  • Stair and bathroom safety
    • Make sure stairs have plenty of light and that there are handrails on both sides. Placing fluorescent or colored tape on the edges of the top and bottom steps may help make them more visible.
    • For safety in the bathroom, install bars to grab onto on bathroom walls beside tubs, showers, and toilets. Consider using a plastic chair with a back in the shower.
    • Always use a rubber bath mat in the shower or tub so the chance of slipping is reduced.
  • Lighting
    • Keep a flashlight with fresh batteries beside the bed in case of a power failure.
    • Make sure the lights in a room can be turned on from the doorway. A ceiling light with a light switch by the door or lamps that can be turned on by a switch are possible solutions. Another option is to install voice- or sound-activated lamps (such as the Clapper).
    • Use at least 100-watt bulbs in the home so that lamps are brighter.
  • Telephones and contact
    • A portable phone or cell phone that can be taken from room to room is another option to improve safety in the home. This helps prevent a fall caused by rushing to answer the phone, and it can be used to call for help if an accident occurs.
    • Arrange for daily contact with a family member or friend. This increases the chance of receiving immediate help in case of an accident.
    • Monitoring companies are also available if living alone. They will respond to a call 24 hours a day.
  • Other safety issues
    • If using a step stool, use a sturdy one with a handrail and wide steps. It is better to reorganize closets, cabinets, and shelves so climbing on a stool or bend over is not necessary.
    • Always keep enough prescription medications to last at least one week at home. Also, talk to a doctor or pharmacist about these medications. Determine whether any medication or combination of medications may increase the risk of falling.

Another safety tip that I recommend is to regularly examine the rubber tip of your canes to be certain that there is not too much wear. A tip that has worn through makes the cane dangerous and can lead to a serious slip and fall. Most rubber tips now have treads on the bottom. If these show substantial wear, it is time to replace the tip. Rubber tips are inexpensive and commonly available in the local pharmacy or medical supply shop.

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