I called my mom a few days ago. She lives 1,000 miles away, and we chat regularly. My dad passed away 5 years ago; she lives alone. And though she’s surrounded by a tight circle of friends, there’s no substitute for the enduring love of family.
I told Mom I was writing an article on how to “kid proof” your home, only it wasn’t going to be kids I was writing about – it was the elderly. I wanted to offer tips on how to make your parents’ home “trip proof” – simple steps you can take to help them avoid falls.
I thought I’d ask her a few questions, and weave her answers into this piece. But she surprised me. As we spoke, she gradually took over, and all I had to do was listen. From advice on maintaining balance, to exercise, common-sense tips on how to arrange your kitchen, and even what foods to eat, my mom was practically writing the article for me.
So I just sat back and listened.
“I have lots of advice for people my age. Let me tell them.”
OK, Mom – take it away! The following tips come from my 84-year-old mom.
1. Practice balancing exercises. Stand on one foot, then the other. Be sure to do both sides, and see if you can do it without holding onto anything. If you start to fall, you’ll be better able to catch yourself if your balance is good.
2. Stay flexible. Again, you’re better able to prevent yourself from falling when you’re flexible, especially your legs. Lie on the floor and reach one leg over the other. Stretch as far as you can. Then do the other side.
3. Install handrails in your shower. Use them.
4. Don’t rush to answer the phone. If it’s important, they’ll call back. In fact, don’t hurry to do anything. When you hurry you’re more likely to bump into a doorjamb, trip, or knock into something.
5. When you get out of bed in the morning, or after a nap, sit on the edge of the bed for awhile. If you get up too quickly, you might feel light-headed or dizzy, and lose your balance. Also, sitting a minute lets your body have a chance to get ready to stand up and walk.
6. Very important: stay active. Take walks once or twice a day. Get some fresh air. Get moving. (Mom's still climbing those hills!)
7. Stay in touch with your family. If you’re not close to your family, try to live someplace where you can get to know your neighbors. It really helps to know that there’s someone you can call on for help.
8. Don’t forget to take your pills and vitamins, at the times you’re supposed to take them. Get into a pattern; most people take them first thing in the morning. If you need to take medicine during the day, they make clocks that buzz at a pre-set time, to remind you.
9. Make sure there are no edges sticking up on any rugs, anywhere. Look at your floors, and fix or move anything you might trip over. Also, make sure rugs have a pad underneath, so they don’t slide on the floor.
10. I eat a lot of yogurt for calcium, but most of my friends don’t like yogurt. In fact, many of my friends have lost their appetite, and many don’t like to cook. If you’re not sure you’re getting enough calcium, take supplements – Viactiv is calcium in chocolate or caramel form, very good. Also, look for calcium-fortified orange juice and cereal. Most of us still enjoy a good breakfast.
11. Try to stay on the floor– stay off stools and stepladders. Put the dishes and foods you use every day on a shelf low enough to get to easily. Put those you use less frequently on a higher shelf, then use one of those grabber things to get them, so you don’t have to climb up. Keep both feet on earth whenever possible!
12. Be positive. Don’t think about your aches and pains; think about the good things in your life. You’ll feel better when you stay positive.
And there you have it, 12 ways to protect your bones. And to live your life, post-middle age.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. And thanks – for everything.