Falls – Risk Factors and Prevention Strategies
Every year, 3 million seniors are treated in the emergency room for fall injuries. And, falling once doubles someone’s chances of falling again.
Preventing accidents in the home, including falls, is one of the most important planning strategies for helping seniors stay independent. Fractures, head trauma and other injuries can cause long term mobility issues and have lasting physical effects. And, once an injury occurs, it can affect someone’s ability to live the way they want and enjoy the same lifestyle and activities.
Health issues that occur more often as we age can also make seniors more likely to fall. These risk factors include:
- Muscle weakness
- Heart disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia
- Low blood pressure
- Poor vision
- Ear infections or inflammation
- Pain or sensitivity in the legs or feet
One out of five falls causes a serious injury, such as a broken bone or a head injury.
There are some precautions that seniors and their families can take to reduce the likelihood of a fall.
Evaluating risk factors and taking preventative measures in a way that considers the unique lifestyle, needs and health of a senior can help.
- Minimize trip hazards – Some fall hazards are obvious; flights of stairs, slippery shower floors or cords that are too far from a wall outlet. But there are less obvious features that can be an issue for someone with dizziness or vision loss. These can include loose rugs, certain types of carpeting, dimly lit hallways or a dog toy in the middle of the floor. Removing the hazard or installing safety devices, like grab bars and brighter light bulbs, can help.
- Evaluate footwear – Footwear that has an open back, doesn’t fit properly, is worn out or has a slippery bottom can all contribute to tripping or balance problems. There are a variety of safe shoe options to fit any activity and personal style…safe shoes don’t have to be boring!
- Know the effects of medication – Seniors and their families should talk to a healthcare professional about how a person’s specific medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – can have side effects that cause dizziness or balance issues.
- Nutrition and exercise – Having healthy habits when it comes to diet and exercise can prevent weakness in the legs and feet, and can reduce pain. Seniors should always talk to their doctor about any diet and exercise plan, and can ask specific questions about how these things affect their fall risk factors.
- Focus on mental health – Studies show that there is a correlation between depression in seniors and falls. According to one report, “both depression and fear of falling are associated with impairment of gait and balance.” Positive mental wellbeing can improve many areas of a senior’s life, and reduced fall risk is another benefit. Connecting with loved ones, finding a sense of purpose, engaging in enjoyable activities and experiencing joy can improve physical and mental quality of life.
Some families only think about fall prevention after a loved one is hurt. Taking precautions before an accident happens can help seniors maintain their physical health and their independence.
Comfort Keepers® Can Help
For every client, our Comfort Keepers team does a thorough home evaluation to minimize hazards in the home – including fall risk evaluation. Our caregivers can help with mobility issues, provide transportation to scheduled appointments, and support physician-prescribed exercise regimens and diets. And, our goal is to elevate the spirits of our clients and their families every day. As part of an individualized care plan, caregivers can also help with activities like cooking, cleaning and physical care. Whether a senior is recovering from a fall or needs help with fall prevention, we can provide services to help.
To learn more about our in-home care services, contact Comfort Keepers Buffalo at (763) 450-1500.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Falls Are Serious and Costly.” Web.
Better Health While Aging. “Why Older People Fall & How to Reduce Fall Risk.” Web. 2017.
Mayo Clinic. “Fall Prevention: Simple tips to prevent falls.” Web. 2016.
Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “The Complex Interplay of Depression and Falls in Older Adults: A Clinical Review.” Web. 2016