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Tips to avoid life's slips, trips

By Lorraine Graves

Published 9:19 PST, Wed November 29, 2017

There’s lots you can do to prevent a life-altering tumble, according to occupational therapist (OT) Rishma Dhalla, who leads Richmond’s Fall Prevention Program.

“Statistic are that one in every three seniors over age of 65 has a fall every year,” Dhalla says.

“Our whole focus is safety and independence,” says Dhalla.

At 88, Valerie Musil enjoys living in her own apartment in Steveston. Four months ago, she had a fall.

“I stepped back with my left leg, it’s not strong, and I fell.”

Keen to remain independent, Musil consulted with Dhalla.

“It’s an interdisciplinary team with an OT, public health nurse, and physiotherapist. We provide in-home falls risk assessments and fall preventions clinics.”

This one-stop shopping for fall prevention requires no doctor’s referral. Seniors or family members can start the process by calling604-233-3145.

“Falls account for 40 per cent of all nursing home admissions. In B.C., falls are the number one cause of injury-related death in seniors,” Dhalla says.

Most seniors’ falls occur at home and often due to hazards that are easy to fix.

“Rishma was really good. She gave me a lot of good tips. She said I should take my phone with me all the time which I didn’t do before. And we had the bar in the shower that she adjusted.”

Dhalla suggested removing all area rugs. She also said sturdy shoes, like runners, were a safer bet than house slippers.

Dhalla also suggests installing grab bars in the bathroom and bed assist rails—because a lot of newer mattresses are too high—and toilet frames, seats in the tub and more grab bars. Dhalla strongly recommends night lights and suggests reducing clutter.

“People have downsized, kept all the big pieces so we can suggest they move furniture to create safe walking space and reduce clutter in stairwells. Also turn on the light in the stairwell, every time,” she says.

Another option is motion detector light switches.

“We’ve all gone from a bright room to a dark one and we can’t walk straight,” says Dhalla

Another important part of the falls prevention program is fitness.

“You can do those things but, at the end of the day, if your strength and balance are not working, you’re going to have a fall. At the end of the day, if your muscles and balance system are strong enough, you’ll be able to right yourself and not fall down,” says Dhalla.

Absolutely any kind of strengthening, and not just for the lower extremities, is really, really important for seniors. Even if you are now in your 80s, it’s never too late to start,” encourages Dhalla.

The other thing that helps to hold up Musil, is her daughter: “I live on my own and I’m so glad I have her because she is so good whenever I need her.”

Musil also has her attitude that keeps her healthy and living independently.

“I think positive and that helps me a lot too because if you give up, that’s it, right?” she says.

Dhalla says, “Our whole goal is education and working with our senior clients so they can stay in their own home and be as safe as possible for as long as possible.”

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