Three Ways To Prevent Diabetes Related Falls

People with diabetes can be at increased risk for falls owed to frequent low blood sugar episodes, and health complications such as nerve damage, vision loss, or foot ulcers. This is especially true for older individuals.

To help prevent potentially debilitating falls, we can do three things: enlist the aid of medical professionals, exercise regularly, and correct the challenges to safety in our home.

Three Ways To Prevent Falls

1. Physician and Therapist Help

The American Geriatrics Society recommends older individuals get an annual doctor’s assessment for fall risk. After looking at a patient’s hypoglycemia history, fall history, prescriptions, and mobility issues a doctor may recommend medication changes, and/or refer patients to a physical or occupational therapist. The doctor might also screen for vitamin deficiencies (e.g., vitamins D, B12) that can cause weakness, or dizziness.

Occupational and physical therapists can look for safety hazards in our living environment, and evaluate us for balance, posture, and mobility problems. They may recommend using adaptive equipment or tools that make everyday tasks easier. Physical therapists can also teach us exercises to improve our gait, stability, and strength.

2. Exercise

The most common recommendation for fall prevention is regular exercise. Activities that enhance feet, leg, and hip flexibility, and resistance training that strengthens abdominal and back muscles are especially beneficial for better balance. The gentle, flowing movements of Tai Chi can also improve our coordination, endurance, range of motion, and stability, and is a suitable activity for all fitness levels.

3. Home Safety

By removing safety challenges in our home we can significantly decrease our risk for falling. The measures we choose to take will depend on the severity of our diabetes-related risk factors, and our age:

  • Walking Surfaces. Make sure carpet edges are secured and remove throw rugs; decorative throw rugs can be used as wall-hangings. Keep mats off the bathroom floor unless the tub or shower is being used. Get rid of unnecessary floor clutter, including wires in high-traffic locations. Secure all stairway carpeting, and place treads on stairs; never leave objects on or near stairways.
  • Repair cracks in driveways or outdoor walkways, have uneven bricks re-laid, and where possible, level uneven outdoor surfaces. Keep shrubbery along walkways trimmed back, and be certain there are no weeds to stumble over.
  • Illumination. Have every room, plus indoor or outdoor stairways and walkways adequately illuminated. Make sure a lamp or light switch is reachable from the bed. Those who wear bifocals are recommended to place fluorescent tape on all steps to avoid accidentally missing one. Make use of night lights throughout the house or apartment.

  • Furniture. Modify or remove low furniture that makes sitting or standing difficult. Adding dense foam cushions to low chairs or sofas may raise the height enough to make them safer. Removing wheels from a bed will make getting in and out of it easier, and less risky.
  • Avoid using step stools or ladders; maybe purchase an extended reach tool (a “grabber”) to retrieve items on higher shelves, or reorganize so that all belongings are within arm’s reach. Consider putting a chair or stool with rubber feet in the shower.
  • Other Safety Options. Install grab bars by the toilet, and in the tub, or shower. Ideally, stairs should have handrails on each side for the entire length of the stairway. Consider wearing an alert device, such as Life Alert, to report a fall, or other emergency.

We will never know about the falls avoided through our awareness of balance issues, and by taking fall-preventive actions, but that kind of not-knowing can help ensure our longterm mobility, and independence.

Source: Emily Piven Haltiwanger, OTD, MHE, OTR/Diabetes Self Management
Photo credit: Hugo Chisholm

More Articles

Diabetic shoes are important as a common side effect of diabetes is "peripheral neuropathy," which causes loss of sensation in the extremities....

There’s something inherently playful about bouncing, which is why so many people enjoy rebounding. Rebounding, or exercising on a mini-trampoline...

Do not let pictures of yoga experts with their bodies twisted into bizarre, compact shapes fool you. Even people with stiff muscles, creaky joints...

One of the hardest parts about adopting a low-carb diet is giving up traditional baked goods and sweets. The good news, however, is that low-carb...

Insulin injections are a way of life for many people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but for some people, they can be a little intimidating at...

More Articles

There’s something inherently playful about bouncing, which is why so many people enjoy rebounding. Rebounding, or exercising on a mini-trampoline...

Everyone from grandmothers to physicians tout oatmeal's wholesome goodness and health benefits. But, is oatmeal good for diabetics? Limited...

A common complication associated with diabetes is swollen feet. The swelling can...

Stomach aches and other gastrointestinal pains can be signs of a bigger problem. One such problem for diabetics is gastroparesis, or delayed...

Improving your A1C reading requires you to maintain consistently healthy blood...

You may think beer, wine, and liquor would be categorized as food, but in reality, alcohol is a drug. Just like medications, alcohol has powerful...

While most physicians will tell you that your blood glucose will not be impacted by a flu shot, anecdotally there are reports of increased...

Diabetic shoes are important as a common side effect of diabetes is "peripheral neuropathy," which causes loss of sensation in the extremities....

Experts estimate that somewhere in the world a person with diabetes will lose a lower extremity every half minute due to a wound. One of the...

One of the hardest parts about adopting a low-carb diet is giving up traditional baked goods and sweets. The good news, however, is that low-carb...

With such a marked increase in the number of new diabetes cases, more people are wondering if type 1 diabetes...

Anyone can develop a fungal skin infection, but people with diabetes are more prone to them. A common cause of fungal infections in those with...

Many diabetics struggle to control the sudden blood sugar spikes that can occur after meals. Knowing why blood sugar spikes happen and making...

The medical community relies heavily on the goodwill of its citizens, as giving blood and organ donations help save thousands of lives every year...

There are several misconceptions about Diabetes. Learn more about the top misconceptions vs. facts surrounding Type 2 Diabetes below.

86...