Lifesavers

Lifesavers are ways to prevent falling with possible injury, or death. For falls prevention we borrow the concept long understood by sailors. Imagine you have gone out for a day with friends on a lovely sailboat. As you are walking on deck, instead of holding onto the lifelines that surround the boat, you are looking elsewhere, maybe adjusting your camera for the next dolphin sighting, when a big wave hits, the boat heels to the side and you are tossed overboard, landing in the choppy waters. You find yourself at risk of being swept out to sea, perhaps drowning. Instead, someone throws you a life ring. This makes all the difference.

Regulations require boats to have lifelines, life rings, and enough life jackets for each person on board. Collectively, we call them lifesavers to emphasize their essential role. Not having them puts your life at risk. Like sailing, fall prevention involves some regulations, such as railings on both sides of stairways, although most fall risks are not regulated at all. And there is no equivalent to a Coast Guard that will observe periodically and enforce. It is up to us to keep ourselves safe.

Some lifesavers prevent falls in obvious ways. For instance, if you have poor vision and decide to use the vision lifesaver, you may begin with an appointment with an eye doctor. This may lead to a new eyeglasses prescription. As a result, your vision is improved. You can see better and not trip over the hypothetical small red ball on the stairs.

Other lifesavers are more subtle. Same “small red ball” tripping hazard, in this example you see it and attempt to step around it, but lose your balance and tumble down the steps. What would make a difference? Your doctor may recommend physical therapy -a balance lifesaver.  Many of the balance exercises you learn with physical therapy can be continued at home and made part of your daily routine. As a result, you do not trip over the ball and tumble down the stairs at home, or stumble and fall on the uneven sidewalk at the shopping center.

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