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Visiting the Doctor

 

The holidays have just passed, and you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to get and stay healthy. The first stop should be to see your doctor. He or she will be able to give you advice as to what to work on, watch out for, and what you can do to prevent certain health problems. For senior citizens it is recommended to visit your general doctor as well as the eye doctor to ensure your eyesight has not changed.

How to Get an Appointment

If you are familiar with the computer, many doctors now give you the ability to make an appointment on their website. Otherwise, call their office and inquire about the earliest chance to come in. You do not want to wait or procrastinate about going to the doctor. Your health is important and you want to take it seriously. Once your appointment day comes, be sure to get there 15 minutes early to ensure you do not miss your time. Usually the doctor is running late, but it is better to be early just in case. Bring a book or crossword puzzle to occupy your time.

What to Ask the Doctor

Be sure to come up with some questions you want to ask your doctor before your appointment. Maybe you are concerned about a specific issue such as lightheadedness upon standing or perhaps you have been feeling anxious. Do not feel afraid or embarrassed to bring up any of these issues. This is the best chance to do so, and the doctor will give you sound advice as to what you should be doing. An appointment like this is also a good chance to get a yearly physical. You can also have certain prescriptions updated if need be.

After the Appointment

If your doctor gave you new prescriptions, you will want to drop them off at the pharmacist on your way home. Write down any specific recommendations the doctor may have given you. Place them in a spot you will see them such as the refrigerator. Then put those recommendations into practice! He or she may have advised you to walk more, focus on your breathing, or any number of things. Track your results and follow up with the doctor. Call them if you have any new questions or concerns.


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How to Avoid Falling

For those times you want to be independent, From the Mayo Clinic’s “Healthy Aging” section

 

Fall prevention may not seem like a lively topic, but it’s important. As you get older, physical changes and health conditions — and sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions — make falls more likely. In fact, falls are a leading cause of injury among older adults. Still, fear of falling doesn’t need to rule your life. Instead, consider six simple fall-prevention strategies.

1. Make an appointment with your doctor

Begin your fall-prevention plan by making an appointment with your doctor. Be prepared to answer questions such as:

  • What medications are you taking? Make a list of your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements, or bring them with you to the appointment. Your doctor can review your medications for side effects and interactions that may increase your risk of falling. To help with fall prevention, your doctor may consider weaning you off certain medications — such as sedatives and some types of antidepressants.
  • Have you fallen before? Write down the details, including when, where and how you fell. Be prepared to discuss instances when you almost fell but were caught by someone or managed to grab hold of something just in time. Details such as these may help your doctor identify specific fall-prevention strategies.
  • Could your health conditions cause a fall? Certain eye and ear disorders may increase your risk of falls. Be prepared to discuss your health conditions and how comfortable you are when you walk — for example, do you feel any dizziness, joint pain, numbness or shortness of breath when you walk? Your doctor may evaluate your muscle strength, balance and walking style (gait) as well.

2. Keep moving

Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. With your doctor’s OK, consider activities such as walking, water workouts or tai chi — a gentle exercise that involves slow and graceful dance-like movements. Such activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.

If you avoid physical activity because you’re afraid it will make a fall more likely, tell your doctor. He or she may recommend carefully monitored exercise programs or refer you to a physical therapist. The physical therapist can create a custom exercise program aimed at improving your balance, flexibility, muscle strength and gait.

3. Wear sensible shoes

Consider changing your footwear as part of your fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. So can walking in your stocking feet. Instead:

  • Have your feet measured each time you buy shoes, since foot size can change.
  • Buy properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles.
  • Avoid shoes with extra-thick soles.
  • Choose lace-up shoes instead of slip-ons, and keep the laces tied. If you have trouble tying laces, select footwear with fabric fasteners.
  • If you’re a woman who can’t find wide enough shoes, try men’s shoes.]

4. Remove home hazards

Take a look around your home. Your living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallways and stairways may be filled with hazards. To make your home safer:

  • Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways.
  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands from high-traffic areas.
  • Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing — or remove loose rugs from your home.
  • Repair loose, wooden floorboards and carpeting right away.
  • Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach.
  • Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food.
  • Use nonskid floor wax.
  • Use nonslip mats in your bathtub or shower.

5. Light up your living space

Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. Also:

  • Place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
  • Place a lamp within reach of your bed for middle-of-the-night needs.
  • Make clear paths to light switches that aren’t near room entrances. Consider trading traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
  • Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.
  • Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.

6. Use assistive devices

Your doctor might recommend using a cane or walker to keep you steady. Other assistive devices can help, too. For example:

  • Hand rails for both sides of stairways
  • Nonslip treads for bare-wood steps
  • A raised toilet seat or one with armrests
  • Grab bars for the shower or tub
  • A sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub — plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down

If necessary, ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist. He or she can help you brainstorm other fall-prevention strategies. Some solutions are easily installed and relatively inexpensive. Others may require professional help or a larger investment. If you’re concerned about the cost, remember that an investment in fall prevention is an investment in your independence.