How to Get Back On Your Feet After An Injury

Written by Sally Perkins

Retirement is meant to be a happy, enjoyable time; you can finally breathe, relax and take in everything life has to offer. No matter which activity you intend to pursue – whether it’s traveling, gardening, or anything else you enjoy – it’s important to be careful and stay safe, as accidents and injuries are quite frequent for older adults. In fact, every year millions of seniors visit the emergency room and 30% of those are there for some kind of injury. Injuries such as fractures, sprains, head trauma and dislocations are particularly common and can slow your life down. However, an injury doesn’t have to ruin your retirement; you can take some effective steps to make sure that you get back on your feet as quickly as possible and feel healthy again despite the injury.

Give Yourself Time

Common causes of injuries in older adults are falling but also car accidents. About 30%-50% of falls cause minor injuries such as bruises and abrasions, but 10% of these cause major injuries such as head trauma or hip fractures. Car accidents involving older citizens have also been increasing, with pedestrians as the majority of accident victims. These accidents also often cause head trauma and other serious injuries.

Recovering from serious injuries takes time and can be a challenging process, so make sure you get plenty of rest and do not force yourself to perform activities which are painful for you. Take it easy and get plenty of rest. In the meantime, you can take up a more sedentary activity, such as reading or writing. Surround yourself with people who care about you and can help you get through this difficult time.

Talk to Your Doctor

Many older adults don’t report falls and are reluctant to talk about pain levels following an accident, even if it’s as serious as a car accident. Remember that your doctor is here to help you and is crucial for your recovery.

Make sure to alert your doctor every time you feel pain, even if you think it’s minor and doesn’t need attention. Doctors today are trained to have an equal relationship with their partners; a good patient-doctor relationship is a partnership, which becomes stronger as you ask questions and tell your doctor when treatments aren’t working or when you’re experiencing pain.

Emotional Healing Is Just As Important 

Accidents can leave you traumatized and dealing with the emotional aftermath is just as important as taking the right steps towards healing physically. Especially after major incidents such as car accidents, many patients have to deal with emotional trauma and grief, while also working on healing from a physical point of view.

This can put a lot of stress on a patient and also delay recovery. Talking to a specialized psychologist can help in your healing and help you process what happened. It can also be useful to get a legal opinion concerning the accident; this can help you ascertain your lack of responsibility for the accident and assist you in receiving compensation for your injuries, which can also help you put the traumatic incident behind you and start over.

Focus on Healthy Nutrition 

Make sure you are eating enough healthy food to sustain your recovery, since food provides the necessary energy and nutrients you need in order to be healthy. Choose a variety of healthy, whole grain foods and also aim to eat plenty of leafy vegetables, fruit and lean protein.

Try to avoid empty calorie foods, such as cookies, fast food, soda and alcohol; these foods are high in calories but very low in nutritional value and will delay your recovery as they increase inflammation in the body. Take supplements if necessary: calcium and vitamin D are two essential nutrients which have been shown to be effective in recovering from fractures or trauma.

Exercise Is Crucial 

As you get older, injuries take longer to heal because of elevated inflammation and hormonal changes. However, research as shown that seniors who exercise recover more quickly than those who don’t. Exercise can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t done it in a while, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or grueling! Moderate intensity walking is a popular choice, since it’s an activity which can be done easily by most older adults and it’s completely free. Other popular choices are yoga, swimming or other water based workouts such as aqua aerobics. Water based activities are easier on the joints and less tiring, but ultimately make sure you choose something you really enjoy.

Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program in order to exercise safely and effectively. Start slow and for short periods of time, then slowly build up to a more challenging routine.

As well as walking and eating healthy, focus on activities which require core stability and balance, such as standing on one leg. There are also specific yoga classes which cater to seniors, and will help you improve flexibility and balance.

Exercising will increase your strength, energy and balance, as well as reducing risk of injuries, especially those caused by falls. By working on these aspects and having effective patient-doctor communication, you will be able to maximize your recovery time and be fully independent again as quickly as possible.

Want to Live Longer? Fall-Proof Your Home Now

Written by James Fleming

Have you heard? A new government study has found that deaths in adults 65+ from falls rose an astonishing 31% in the past decade, jumping from 18,000 deaths in 2007 to 30,000 in 2016. As more and more adults age into the 65+ bracket in the next decade or so, that number could continue to rise dramatically.

Risk Factors for Falling

Don’t think you are at risk for falling? The National Council on Aging reports that a whopping 1 in 4 adults over 65 reports falling at least once a year. Even a minor fall can cascade into serious injuries like hip fractures and other broken bones, sprains, head trauma, and lacerations. From there, a hospital stay may expose you to infectious agents (like hospital-acquired pneumonia) or your mobility can become impaired to a point that affects your activity and independence levels.

Knowing additional factors that put you at risk can help you take early action to protect yourself from falling. Important risk factors for falling include:

  • Age and sex – adults 85 and over are the fastest-growing demographic and the most at risk of falling. Females also typically fall more than men.
  • Chronic illness – seniors with chronic conditions like diabetes, stroke, arthritis, Parkinson’s, and dementia develop symptoms that can affect coordination, mobility, and so forth which contribute to falling.
  • Balance problems – balance problems, dizziness, faintness, and mobility issues can all make it harder to catch and correct yourself when you start to stumble or fall.
  • Fluctuating blood pressure – drastic drops in blood pressure can lead to faintness and dizziness as can some medicine side effects.
  • Hearing or vision impairment – a decline in how well you see and hear can impact the sensory input your brain needs to keep you stable and coordinated.
  • History of previous falling – research shows simply that people who have experienced falls in the past are more likely to have another one.

Fall Prevention Strategies

If you want to live out your retirement in the fun, carefree way you always dreamed, being smart about preventing falls is a must! Keep these help fall prevention tips in mind:

Upgrade Your Home

Simple home modifications can go a long way towards guarding against dangerous falls. Experts recommend installing grab bars in the shower and railings around staircases, ramps, and porches. You should also look at making sure lighting is accessible and consistent between rooms in your home, and that large pieces of furniture and general clutter are moved out of the way to make room for wide, clear pathways throughout the house.

Exercise

In addition to routine cardio workouts, seniors should partake in strength-training and balance exercises. Practices like yoga and tai chi incorporate balance, gentle stretching, weight-bearing poses, and deep breathing and can be easily tailored to all types of mobility levels. And strength-training for older adults is possible (and dare say it, fun) with lightweight dumbbells, resistance bands, and medicine balls.

Talk to Your Doctor

Do you take multiple medications a day? Some studies have shown that this can increase your risk of falling. For example, if you have multiple providers writing prescriptions for you, like a specialist and a primary care doctor, lack of oversight can result in drug interactions or complicated medicine schedules that contribute to bad side effects which increase your risk of falling. Start a dialogue with your doctors about all the medicines you are on and don’t forget to get your hearing and vision checked regularly.

Seek Support

Did you know that simply having a fear of falling can increase your risk of falling? Researchers believe that anxiety about falling can compromise the attention an older adult should pay towards remaining stable and can lead to stiffening behaviors which throw them off balance, specifically during dynamic, high-functioning movements. If you have a fear of falling, talk to your family and care network about better equipping the home to prevent falls and seek counseling as necessary to help deal with your anxiety.

Check Your Diet

Are you filling up with bone and muscle-building foods throughout the day? Are you properly hydrated? Not getting enough proper nutrition and water throughout the day can lead to symptoms like fatigue, lightheadedness, brain fog, and even disorientation that all contribute to falling. In the long-term as well, not eating a diet tailored to helping you both get enough calories for energy as well as consume nutrients vital to keeping your bones and muscles strong, like protein and calcium, can compound muscle weakness and increase the risk of fracture should a fall happen.

3 Retirement Misconceptions

Each of us has his or her particular vision of how we hope retirement will play out. Some look forward to an active life doing those things they never had time for while mired in the working world. Action and adventure will be the topic of the day. Others may wish to pursue a slower pace enjoying each day for what it has to offer without feeling the need to pack calendars with activities. Whatever your personal preference it is important to look ahead to plan and prepare. Good things do not automatically happen just because you roll into retired life.

We look forward to living and pursuing a second act doing what we genuinely enjoy. We have earned it. This is our time. And hopefully we can each do just that. But it never hurts to be a little cautious. It is better to go into retirement with eyes wide open rather than simply optimistically hoping for the best. As you navigate your retirement here are a few gottchas to watch for:

I have worked all my life and I can’t wait to do nothing in retirement

Your retirement should be a time for you to turn things down a notch and take it easy. You have earned it. For many the initial honeymoon period – that first 6-12 months right after you retire – is a wonderful time. No more getting up early to battle the traffic. Goodbye stressful meetings and busy airports. Say hello to sleeping in a bit and starting your day slowly, at a pace that suits you. Doing nothing – “watching the grass grow” as my dad would say – feels darn good. But then a funny thing can happen.
Instead of feeling excited about the new day you find yourself becoming a little bored. Those fun distractions that initially brought a smile to your face start to feel a bit old. Doing nothing turns out to not be all you had expected.

It is valuable for those nearing retirement to take an honest look at how they will spend their days once the job is no more. How will you keep busy and engaged in meaningful activities? What will those activities be and do you have enough of them? Finding yourself retired and bored can be a terrible thing. Better to put those creative powers to use today before you arrive at retirement’s doorstep to build your list of passions, hobbies and worthwhile pursuits. You have the power to make each day memorable or at the very least not boring. You can always make time to do nothing. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because you have made it to retirement your job is done. It takes effort to live a fulfilling retired life.

I will never have enough money to retire

In order to live a safe and sane retirement we need to have sufficient savings or some continuing source of income to pay the bills. How much you need depends a lot on the lifestyle you live. Once retired some expenses will reduce or go away – education for the children, mortgage payments if you have been fortunate enough to pay off your home, and gas bills to fill the cars for the work commute. Other aspects of life will become more expensive such as healthcare. Each of us should look closely at the way we hope to live our retirement and compare it to the income we expect to have. You may have to make adjustments. Some choose to make a trial run living as if retired to see just how accurate their estimates are. Others wait until they can wait no longer due to failing health or changing job circumstances.

My fear is if you wait too long you may miss out on those younger years when you can still do it all (almost). When you first retire at say 65, the options for what you can try and experiment with are broader than when you get to 75. Hopefully you are still healthy enough to get out there and play. That is not to say just because you are 75 it is too late. But the reality of aging is what it is. It is easier to do some things while you are younger. If you worry about having enough money to cover every contingency you will probably never retire. The cost of that additional financial security may require you missing out on experiences you will never be able to recoup.

I will be bored if I don’t work

This can be a tough one. Numerous studies show a majority of seniors would choose to work in some capacity after retirement. The biggest reason is to maintain the social interaction that comes with a job. When we retire we not only leave behind our career but also all of those who along the way became part of our lives. Some make the effort to maintain relationships after retiring but it is not easy. That common ground provided by sharing a workplace is gone and sometimes there is nothing commensurate to take its place. And then there are those who genuinely enjoy what they are doing so leaving the job can be seen as a negative.

I have found the absence of a job a good thing in my retirement. That incredible stress and constant pressure to perform is replaced with a slower paced day to day existence. I get to decide what I want to do when I want. I can explore interests I may have been forced to abandon since I now control the clock. I am looking into volunteering in the community as well as investigating local organizations in such areas as gardening and wine appreciation. I rarely find myself bored, but I have only been at it for three years now. Still, short of needing to go back to work for the money I am quite happy far, far away from the work scene. Who has time to be bored?  🙂