Watch your step

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It’s important for seniors to take steps to prevent falls in and around the home

Freda is eagerly looking forward to the birth of her third grandchild. Her eyes light up as she proudly points at the framed photographs of her cherubs and makes space for the third one.

Freda’s day starts at 6am. She waters her plants, goes for a walk by the bay that was once visible from her kitchen, cooks three courses for herself – and bolognaise for her grandchildren when they come to visit, surrenders to her fetish for cleanliness and patiently waits for the birds to leave the tree in her front yard, after which she sweeps the half-eaten fruit off the path leading to her door.

For a woman her age, that’s quite a bit of work. Or so I thought.

As she makes me a cup of coffee in her tidy kitchen, Freda shows me her new moves – gentle stretches, walking sideways and toning exercises. She learned these moves from Stepping On – a fall prevention program she attended through the Inner West Community Care Services.

I point to her well-stocked fruit basket and her eyes light up as she declares her love for bananas. Like a diligent student, she shows me the food chart provided at the program and stresses the importance of greens and lentils for her septuagenarian friends.

She prefers a simple meal of roti, daal, chawal and subzi but confesses her dislike for the insipid basmati rice available here.

For her mind, Freda prays and watches Amitabh Bachchan tackle goons and romance yesteryear heroines. She combines her fall prevention routine with her movie marathon and ties half-kilo weights above her ankle and pulls her leg in and out for my benefit. It’s a strengthening exercise, she tells me.

“Falling is a neglected healthcare subject,” she says. “I think we need to put in more thought and action to it.”

“Especially if you would like to remain independent and strong-willed as Freda?” I tease her. She nods and smiles.

Freda shares notes to herself from the program, listing them on her fingers:

  • Mind that gap. Hold that railing. Let it not hurt your ego or pride.
  • Watch your step. You owe that to yourself.
  • Keep all pathways, in and around the house, clear. “Keep your room tidy! You aren’t eighteen anymore,” she berates.
  • Water inside your body is great. So, keep yourself well hydrated. But water outside, on the floor, on the tiles is dangerous. Always keep a mop handy.
  • Eat your greens. Eat your lentils. Chew properly. And devour that occasional ice cream. She immediately changes her mind and says, “No. Have that slowly. Relish it.”

 

Fall prevention

Falls can happen to anyone, but, unfortunately, as you grow older falls can become more common and you are more likely to injure yourself. As you grow older, changes in your body such as vision problems, weakening muscles and stiffening joints can increase your chances of falling. Falls can also be a sign of a new health problem, medication side effects or balance problems

If you’ve had a fall, or you often feel like you’re at risk of falling, don’t just dismiss it as part of getting older, lack of concentration or clumsiness. Talk to a health professional and ask about different options that may help you.

 

Stepping On Program

If you would like to be more confident at home and maintain your independence and reduce your risk of having a fall, the Stepping On program may be the program for you.  The Stepping On program is a free program where older people attend regular group sessions facilitated by local specialist health professionals and invited guest speakers. Stepping On is designed for people who are living at home and who have fallen or are fearful of falling. Participation in a program like Stepping On will help older people maintain independence and give them confidence in their mobility so they are able to undertake their everyday activities safely and without the risk of falling.

For further information visit www.activeandhealthy.nsw.gov.au.

 

My Aged Care website

The My Aged Care website has been established by the Australian Government to help you navigate the aged care system. The contact centre can be phoned on 1800 200 422 between 8.00am and 8.00pm on weekdays and between 10.00am and 2.00pm on Saturdays. For further information visithttp://www.myagedcare.gov.au/healthy-and-active-living/falls-prevention.