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How to Prevent Falls for Seniors
Falls generally occur across all age groups. Everyone falls at some point in their lives. Whether it’s while you’re just learning how to walk, while you’re running for any reason whatsoever, or even while you’re just out on a casual evening stroll. While a lot of times injuries as a result of falls are minimal, it isn’t always that simple and easy, especially for seniors. The risk of moderate to severe injury such as or even death as a result of a fall is highest among the elderly and this danger only increases as we become older.
There are several alarming statistics relating to the incidence and effects of falls by various medical organizations. For example, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “falls are the second most common cause of accidental injury deaths in the world. Also, falls are the leading cause of injury in adults over the age of 60”.
The following are some statistics relating to falls according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
- “Every year, 3 million older adults are seen in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries”
- “Yearly, at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures and more than 95% of those are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways”
- “Falls are also the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI)”.
A large number of these falls take place in the home. It is therefore important to help prevent or at least minimize the risk of falling in seniors.
Causes of Falls
Falls can result from a variety of causes ranging from accidents to health complications as a result of aging and even to side effects of medical therapy. Some factors contributing to the occurrence of falls are highlighted below:
Aging is the primary cause of falls in seniors. Several health conditions such as diminished eyesight, muscle weakness, and poor hearing arise as a result of aging and these conditions easily increase the risk of falling.
Some over the counter medications tend to cause effects such as dizziness as well as affect balance all culminating in an increased risk of falls. Anti-hypertensive drugs tend to cause light headedness, especially in older adults. Examples of other drugs that are likely to increase the risk of falls include anti-anxiety drugs like diazepam and lorazepam, Diphenhydramine, zolpidem, and amitriptyline. Also, the higher the number of drugs being taken by a person, the greater the risk of falls hence combination therapy also presents as a risk factor.
3). Disease Conditions
Disease conditions like arthritis, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases result in a wide variety of effects like reduced physical strength, confusion, muscle weakness, and disruption of body balance all of which serve to contribute to the incidence of falls.
4). Lack Of Adequate Exercise
When there is a lack of adequate exercise, the onset of muscle weakness may occur not to mention the increased possibility of development of obesity. Obesity places stress on the legs which due to lack of exercise are not strong enough to bear the weight of the upper body making the body unbalanced and thereby increasing the risk of falls occurring whether at home or elsewhere.
5). Fear Of Falling
The fear of falling rational as it may seem is also a risk factor in the occurrence of falls. Due to the fear of falling, some seniors restrict their physical activity and as a result, there is an increase in the likelihood of muscle stiffness and weakness, and this results in an increase in the risk of falling.
Fall Prevention Tips For Seniors And Their Loved Ones
The good news is the prevention of falls at home does not have to entail large-scale renovations. A few simple adjustments here and there can and will go a long way towards falls prevention and reduction in the number of emergency department visits recorded by aged people.
Now that we have discussed some of the causes of falls in seniors and the importance of prevention of falls, here are a couple of tips to help prevent falls and reduce risk factors associated with falls.
Maintain A Clean Home Environment
The primary and arguably fundamental step in reducing fall related injuries in the home is to make sure that a clean and orderly living space is maintained at all times. Things like stacks of old magazines, old equipment should be properly stored.
Keep Pathways Trip-free
Objects that are “tripping dangers” like electrical cords should be properly rolled up and kept to reduce the risk of them tripping older adults. Outside of the house, make sure to have the driveways/walkways shoveled to prevent slipping during our Canadian winters.
Periodic Maintenance Of Your Home By Yourself Or A Family Member
Carry out periodic maintenance all over your home or have someone do it for you if you are unable to do it yourself. Examine the entire home periodically to ensure that there are no loose fittings or loose carpets and throw rugs to prevent falls. If loose fittings are found, they should be repaired immediately and any loose throw rug or carpet should be appropriately placed to help keep your loved one from injury.
Install Grab Bars
Grab bars should be installed along the stairs in the home to provide a surface for people to grip to balance themselves when ascending or descending the stairs. Grab bars can also be installed near the bathtub and close to the toilet seat. This helps in preventing falls both on the stairs and in the bathroom. An alternative to grab bars by the stairs is investing in a stair lift, but the cost for that ranges wildly upwards of $2000.
Engage In Regular Exercise Alone Or With A Loved One
Increased physical activity helps to make sure the risk of fall related injuries is reduced. You can make inquiries in your local gym for a suitable exercise program that is available in your local gym.
Exercise helps to keep the muscles from growing weak and to keep you from gaining unnecessary weight. Exercise programs could involve having a daily, weekly, or even monthly target of steps to be completed. A couple of programs like Google walk, the Nike fitness app amidst others could help in setting goals as well as monitoring real-time. They also send out reminders to assist in remembering.
Use Of Non Slip Items
In a very slippery environment like the bathroom, Non slip mats can be installed in bathtubs to provide grip and thereby reduce the incidence of falls. A bath seat may also be installed to reduce standing and hence falling in the bathroom
Wear Recommended Footwear
Footwear with high heels is not recommended for seniors because they only serve to increase risk factors among older people. Non slip shoes are recommended for wearing chiefly because they offer high traction to prevent slipping.
Light switches should be kept at easily accessible, strategic locations. Night lights should also be installed to aid mobility at night. Also, lighting in the home should be optimal. Light bulbs placed in places like stairs and passageways should be bright enough for optimal visibility.
Use Of Walking Aids
In conditions where they are needed, walking aids such as canes can be utilized to help maintain balance in the body and reduce the incidence of falls.
Medical Check-ups And Drug Prescriptions
Where medications are prescribed by a doctor or pharmacist towards the management of health conditions, always ensure to inquire about possible side effects of the drug. If the drugs prescribed are those with a tendency to increase the risk of falls, then you already know to reduce movement for whatever duration the drugs are to be taken.
Furthermore, ensure you make regular appointments for vision and auditory checkups with your doctor or health care provider. Glasses and hearing aids can be prescribed to improve hearing and vision.
Ensure to inform your doctor about falls that may have occurred between checkups to run tests to ensure that no complications have arisen as a result.
Despite all the above precautions towards achieving a fall-proof home, falls may still occur and this necessitates the pre-installation of emergency health services such as medical alert services. Medical alert services in addition to providing emergency services also help seniors to identify risk factors and offer them advice on how to reduce the risk of falling. They also monitor the body vitals of users such as blood pressure and send out daily device monitoring probes.
Know that you can reduce and prevent falls in your home and in so doing, guarantee a safe and fall-free environment for your loved ones.