Mandan News

Health concerns for senior citizens

Doctor Talk
By Dr. Anthony Johnson

What is the biggest health concern for senior citizens?
The risk for developing almost any disease increases with age. But what most seniors do not realize is that falls, which are largely preventable, are one of the primary causes of injury and loss of independence among older adults. Every year, one in three adults, age 65 and older, falls. Most serious falls happen in and around the home.

How can I be safer in my home?
Keep your house well lit at all times. Use a nightlight or flashlight or leave hallways and bathroom lights on if you get out of bed during the night. Keep a telephone near your bed. Remove or fix things that are easy to trip over such as throw rugs, raised thresholds on doorways and loose carpet. Wipe up spills immediately. Keep things within easy reach so you are not climbing on stools or reaching beyond your comfort level. In your bathroom, install grab handles and nonskid mats in the tub and shower. Use a shower chair, bath bench or hand-held showerhead. Get into the tub or shower putting your weaker leg in first and get out using your stronger side first.

How can I avoid falling outdoors?
Wear rubber-soled shoes or snow boots in the winter. Have a family member or friend sprinkle salt or sand on slippery steps and sidewalks. Keep your hands free by using a shoulder bag or fanny pack.

What personal choices might impact the likelihood of my falling?
It’s important to wear shoes with good support and nonskid soles. Get up slowly from your bed or chair. After you stand up, give yourself a few seconds standing still before you move. Train pets to stay in one place at night and not jump on you or run around your feet. A walker or cane should have rubber tips and be fitted to you. Do not use one that someone else gave you. Learn about your medicines and their possible side effects. Have a plan to make contact every day with a friend or family member. If you live alone, wear an alarm device or carry a cordless or cell phone that will bring help in case you fall and can’t get up.

Can a doctor help me prevent falling?
Your primary care doctor can perform an examination to be sure you are getting sufficient Vitamin D and calcium, which are both important factors in keeping bones strong. Any time you notice changes in your balance or unexplained dizziness, make an appointment with your doctor. These symptoms can also be indicative of other health-related problems.

Anthony Johnson, MD, is a board certified family medicine physician at Sanford East Clinic in Mandan. Dr. Johnson earned his medical degree at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and completed a residency in family medicine at the UND Center for Family Medicine in Bismarck. To make an appointment with Dr. Johnson, call (701) 667-5000.