Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for adults aged 65 or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Considering that a third of senior citizens fall every year, it's no surprise that falls and fear of falling are a serious concern for seniors and their caregivers. Read on to learn about ways to prevent falls and boost independence through fall-prevention techniques.
Understanding the Facts
Of the 2.3 million injuries that occur each year due to falls, just under 700,000 of them require hospitalization. Common injuries include hip fractures, lacerations, and head traumas.
Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and fractures. But it's not just the injured who walk away with scars. As they age, many seniors develop an immobilizing fear of falling. If left untreated, this can have dire consequences, including a debilitating decline in mobility. A corresponding decline in fitness further increases a senior's risk of falling while also increasing the odds of isolation and depression.
Your Fall-Prevention for Seniors Checklist
A few simple safety measures can help prevent falls and instill a sense of independence in seniors.
- Trip-proof your house for all obstacles, removing wires, cords, rugs and other clutter to ensure safe passageways throughout the living space.
- Add non-slip mats and grab bars in the bathroom where many falls occur.
- Install adequate lighting in every room, as well as nightlights in areas like the bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
- Encourage a weight bearing exercise routine that focuses on building balance, strength, flexibility and coordination. The person's physician may be able to refer you to a physical therapist. Or, check with local hospitals and seniors centers for fitness classes for seniors.
- Sturdy footwear is a must! Look for shoes with nonskid soles, and avoid walking around in socks and slippers which can cause slips and falls.
Health Care Providers Can Help
Unfortunately, very few older adults discuss their concerns about falling with their physicians. However, doctors can be a helpful resource in establishing and implementing fall-prevention techniques.
In some cases, side effects from prescription medications may be to blame for the drowsiness and dizziness which can lead to falls. Have the healthcare provider review all medications to make sure there are no dangerous drug interactions.
Changes to vision and hearing can also increase the risk of falling. This can be avoided through routine screenings.
Seniors are also at increased risk for falling because of weak bones. Calcium and vitamin D can be a valuable part of improving strength so talk to your doctor about proper nutritional guidelines.
Your doctor can also help you determine when its time for an assistive device, such as a walker or cane.
Assistive devices offer aid and help boost confidence in the process.
Despite even the most rigorous precautions, falls do occur. Make sure emergency numbers are near every phone and that phones are placed close to the ground in case your aging loved one is unable to get up. Or, consider investing in a medical alert device. While these may stretch your budget, not only can the devices ensure that help is on its way when you need it, but having them can also deliver positive peace of mind.
Fear of falling doesn't have to take over the life of senior citizens. These fall prevention strategies can help caregivers improve the quality of life for their aging loved ones. mmLearn's Ask the Geriatrician series offers valuable caregiver help, training and education on a variety of relevant topics. Or for more information on fall-prevention, don't miss the video, Falls -- A New Look at a Difficult Problem.