The Likelihood of Falls for Seniors can be Lessened
Falls for seniors can be much more than bruises and bumps. Something as simple as a trip on a rug can change a life forever. Oftentimes a fall leads to broken bones or head injuries, and for older people, broken bones can lead to much more serious problems.
As people age, risk factors for falls increase. Eyesight, hearing and reflexes might not be as precise as they were when you were younger. Age-related maladies such as diabetes, heart disease, thyroid problems or foot conditions can affect your balance or gait, leading to a fall. Medications for many of these conditions have side effects such as confusion, dizziness and sleepiness, which also contribute to the rate of falls for seniors.
The National Institute on Aging reports that one in four older adults suffers an injury-inducing fall every year, and that the more medications a person takes, the more likely they are to fall. Luckily, there are ways older adults can lessen the likelihood of taking a fall.
Experts agree on these six steps to prevent falls.*
1. Talk to your doctor. At your next doctor’s appointment, talk about your risk for falling. Have your physician go over your medication list and determine which ones might contribute to unsteadiness. Your doctor might consider weaning you off medications that may affect your thinking or make you tired. Never stop any medication without your doctor’s direction.
2. Keep moving and stay physically active. When you’re talking with your doctor, ask about exercise—what kind and what level would be good for you. Regular exercise improves strength, balance and flexibility, and may slow bone loss from osteoporosis.
3. Have your sight and hearing checked. If you wear glasses, be sure your prescription is up to date and that you wear them as prescribed. Tint-changing lenses can be tricky if moving from bright sunshine into a darker room. Be sure to stand still until they adjust or change into a pair of nontinted glasses. Be cautious with bifocals when using stairs. If your hearing isn’t what it used to be, have it checked, and if you have a hearing aid, be sure it fits properly and wear it.
4. Wear sensible shoes. How many times did you hear this when growing up? It still holds true! Non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes that fully support your feet are highly recommended to help prevent falls. It also is advisable not to walk in stocking feet, which also can be slippery.
5. Make your home safer. Do a walk-through safety assessment of your home. Remove any clutter, such as boxes and cords, that might be blocking walkways. Increase lighting throughout your house and make sure it is readily available when awakening in the middle of the night. Secure any loose rugs with a slip-resistant backing or remove the rugs, if possible. And, be sure your stairs have sturdy railings on both sides. Increase safety in your bathroom by installing grab bars in the bathtub, shower and near the toilet.
6. Use assistive devices. Using a cane or walker appropriately can prevent falls. If your doctor advises the use of a cane or walker, be sure it is the correct size for you, and, if applicable, the wheels roll smoothly. In addition to mobility devises, raised toilet seats, nonslip treads for bare steps, and sturdy plastic shower seating with a hand-held nozzle also improve the odds against taking a fall.
* Mayo Clinic; National Council on Aging; National Institute on Aging
Written by Becky Deo
August 15, 2018