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Many falls can be prevented as we age

Years ago, I watched my grandparents grow older and experience many challenges — and many ambulance rides from Ashland Fire & Rescue.

Though we’re here for you at any time, we’d rather not take you to the hospital, and falls are a major risk factor for older adults in our community.

Sometimes these falls require nothing more than a bandage and some aspirin. Others require surgery and rehabilitation. Grim statistics show that nearly 60% of older adults who fall will end up having to go to a long-term care facility for recuperation.

A large number of falls can be prevented with some easy preventative measures.

We offer the following tips to help you maintain your independence:

  • Exercise to stay strong and improve balance
  • Keep your medical appointments. Things like poor vision increase your chance of falling. Side effects of medications can affect your balance and coordination. Plugged ears can give you vertigo. Talk to your doctor about previous falls.
  • Don’t rush. Take your time when getting out of bed or a chair. Stand for a moment to adjust to this new position and to get your balance. Use assistive devices as needed.
  • Keep trip hazards out of the way. Electrical cords, rugs, shoes, books, boxes, pets, toys and other items can all trip you up and cause an injury.
  • To set yourself up for success, move items out of walkways as soon as you are done using them.
  • Wear well-fitted, non-slip shoes.
  • Secure loose rugs with non-slip backing, and don’t put rugs on top of carpet.
  • Don’t walk through the house in the dark. By keeping a light on when walking around, you will see the things that could potentially cause you to trip.
  • Put a non-slip mat in the bathtub or shower, and if you need them, have grab bars installed.
  • Be cognizant of uneven surfaces and make sure there are sturdy handrails installed on stairs.

If you do fall:

  • Remain calm. Take a few moments to assess your situation. Getting up too quickly or in the wrong position may make an injury worse.
  • If you are dizzy or in a lot of pain, do not get up. Yell for help or call 911 if a phone is within reach.

While the fire department hopes we will never have to visit you in an official capacity, please know that we are always here to help you in your time of need.

Chris Chambers is division chief at Ashland Fire & Rescue and can be reached at chris.chambers@ashland.or.us