As you have heard me say in past articles, dizziness and balance problems affect many of our friends and acquaintances, as well as some of my patients. This is due to their age, as well as their comorbidities (illnesses) and medical problems which have contributed to changes in their physical well-being.
There are safety precautions that can be taken to avoid this problem. It is sometimes difficult to reduce risk and hazards outside familiar areas, but we do have more control at home.
Clear and de-clutter walkways inside the house to free those areas of trip hazards such as electrical cords and old rugs. Consider carrying a cell phone or cordless phone so you don’t have to run to answer the phone. Clean and secure floor surfaces so they are not slippery.
Have adequate indoor lighting both night and day, so it lights the pathway. This is particularly important at night when the bathroom is needed and you are arising from a full sleep — and generally not so steady to begin with. If you have stairs, light switches should be at both ends of the stairway. If that is not in place, there are now remote cordless devices that can be adapted to achieve that.
Install handrails on both sides of the stairs, if possible, and grab bars in the bathroom near the toilet and bathtub. Put nonskid surfaces in the bathtub and shower because that’s where many falls and fractures occur. Get rid of any rugs, particularly if they’re old and their rubber backing has dried up and is no longer gripping the floor.
Store essentials such as food goods and pots and pans at a proper height, so you do not need a step stool or attempt to stand on a chair to reach for them. If a step stool is necessary, make sure it comes with handrails.
Other steps to take that are helpful include alerting family friends or neighbors if you’re having any extra particular problems that would put you at risk for fall and injury. Avoid dangerous situations; that may include driving if you do not feel comfortable and working with any dangerous instruments or tools/machinery.
If you’ve been given medications, particularly new ones that are unfamiliar to you, make sure you understand the side effects and avoid doing anything that would put you at risk of a fall while using these medications if you are required to take them.
Footing is very important. In Florida it seems everybody wears flip-flops. Believe it or not, they are very dangerous and put you at risk for a fall. Thick-soled tennis shoes might be very comfortable, but they can also put you at risk for tripping. A sensible shoe with a thin sole, nonskid bottom and low heel is ideal.
If there is still difficulty bending over, please don’t leave tennis shoes untied; switch to a loafer or get something with a Velcro closure. Wearing slippers or socks walking around the house also may increase your risk of fall and injury.
Don’t be vain; if you need to use a device to assist in walking and reduce your risk of fall and injury, consider a cane. Multiple-point canes are better than the one-point type and sometimes a walker might be a better choice.
Denis W. Grillo, D.O., FOCOO, is an ear, nose and throat specialist in Crystal River. Call 352-795-0011.