Dr. D’s Medical Update
The month of May has been designated Older Americans Month. Given that our patient population has a majority of older adults, I thought this would-be a great topic for this article.
By 2060, a quarter of the U.S. population will be over 65. The program, Healthy People 2030, is working to improve the lives of older adults. We have discussed in past articles the risks faced by older Americans. Things like diabetes, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s are more common in older adults; the group’s goal is monitor these conditions and improve outcomes for our senior adults.
Another risk for older adults is that of falls. One in three adults fall every year and these falls are a leading cause of injury for the group. At HealthTexas Primary Care Doctors, we have a program to help reduce the risk of falls. The Matter of Balance class takes place at different HealthTexas locations and covers several weeks. The program helps to reduce the risk of falls and increase activity levels of the participants. The instructors also go over changes to make in the home to reduce the risk of falls.
Some of those include moving items out of walkways, keeping high traffic areas clear of junk, and securing or removing rugs from the home. Cleaning up spills and using non-slip mats in wet areas can also make a difference.
Besides removing items from walking paths, getting into better physical condition helps. HealthTexas also has several videos online called Fitness Fridays. They are available on YouTube. One of our physician assistants, Betty Garrett, leads the class from our Val Verde office. She has done a great job demonstrating exercises that can be done inside your home. Simply moving can help build strength and balance. Both help reduce the risk of falls. Very soon we’ll be starting a fitness class on Saturdays with PA Betty and these classes will be at our Dr. Richard S. Reyna Community Center located inside our San Pedro Clinic near downtown San Antonio.
Lighting your living space can reduce the risk of tripping over things at night. Placing night-lights in hallways, bathrooms, and any walkway will make it safer when walking at night. Beyond that, keeping a path clear to light switches and having easy access to a bedside light will reduce the risk of falling over something.
Bathrooms are also places where falls can happen. Installing handrails, a raised toilet seat, and shower grab bars can help when slips happen. Some also need a shower chair to make bathing safer.
If you are an older adult reading this, talk with your family about helping you make your home a safer place. Also, speak with your doctor about things you can do to get healthier and stronger. If you have an older family member, encourage them to implement these suggestions to reduce their risk of falls. It may not be easy, but reducing their risk of a fall may add years to their lives.
Michael Dominguez, MD, FAAFP is board certified in Family Medicine. His office is located at HealthTexas Medical Group, 590 N. General McMullen, 78228, (210) 249-0212.