For the elderly, falls certainly pose a great threat for traumatic injury. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year one out of three adults over the age of 65 will experience a fall. This type of problem can then lead to further injury, which is why learning how to prevent falls is so important. Take time now to learn several everyday precautions that you can take to help yourself, or someone you love, keep from falling.
Recognize the Risk-factors
Don't let the fear of falling keep you from living your life, instead be aware of the risk-factors that could lead to more frequent injury. Some things are beyond our control, like age and current health, but other lifestyle modifications, like choosing the right footwear can make a huge difference.
Here are some common risk-factors that can contribute to falls in the elderly:
Previous falls - If you have a history of frequent falls, it is a sure red-flag that something is going on. It would be wise to consult your physician right away to set up an action plan, to help prevent any further injury.
Medications - Certain medications can be detrimental, especially if they come armed with heavy side-effects like dizziness, mobility impairment, or drowsiness.
Improper Footwear - Wearing shoes that fit improperly, lack substantial tread, or are simply offer no walking support, can greatly contribute to falling.
Poor Health - For those who are suffering from debilitating illness or coping with other injuries, a risk of falling is an increased concern. Even those suffering with deep depression, dementia, or other mental instabilities are at risk as well. When our health is compromised, it can often be difficult to use clear judgment or be aware of our one's personal limitations.
Changes in Eyesight - Wearing glasses with an expired prescription or ignoring changes in one's eyesight can also contribute to falling. Do your best to stay current in regards to your eye health. Visit the optometrist regularly and schedule an appointment right away if you notice any changes, especially a decline in your vision.
Steps to Prevention
Seek Medical Advice - One of the best ways you can avoid future falls, is to consult a doctor. It is important that a health plan is created, mapping out your medical history, discussing previous falls, and being aware of all the various medication that could contribute to loss of balance or impair mobility.
Create a Safe Environment - In order to minimize your risk of falling, there are a few everyday things you can do around your home to make things easier. Keep your space well lit and clear of tripping hazards. Keep lamps or light switches within easy reach, and for darker corners, keep flashlights or night-lights available. By properly illuminating your home, it decreases your chance of tripping.
Use Assistance - You might feel disappointed by having to use a walker or household modifications to get around, but these devices allow you to live more freely and independently. Consider having some of the following installed, to help make everyday life simpler:
A raised toilet seat
A shower chair
Tread for hardwood steps
T hand-held shower head
Consider Therapy - If you have a strong sense that some of your mobility could be regained, then consider physical therapy or occupational therapy to get you back to your normal range of motion. This is certainly not a fix-all, but building up muscles in a supervised environment with a professional who is aware of your medical history, can be a wonderful step in the right direction.
Keep Active - Staying as active as possible can be a huge benefit to your body. Keeping up with physical fitness, not only boosts endorphins, it helps promote a better sense of balance, strength, and overall health.
What if I Fall?
Even with all the necessary precautions, it is still possible that you or someone you love may experience a fall. In the event that this does happen, here are some helpful things to consider:
Use Medical Alert Services - Even though you might be hesitant, thinking you don't need it, or that it might be a hassle to wear, having a medical alert button can save your life or the life of someone you love. The Philips Lifeline- Medical Alert Button can provide you with an added peace of mind, in the unfortunate event that you experience a fall.
Look for Signs - If you are caring for someone who has dementia or prescribed medication with heavy side-effects, always be on the lookout for bruising or other signs of falling. It is possible for someone to experience a fall and not remember the event entirely. If you notice limping, new pain, bruising, or additional strain, seek medical care right away. Sadly, some people can experience fractures that go undetected for days, so it is always helpful to err on the side of caution by being aware of any noticeable changes.
Fall Safety - Despite the best intentions, sometimes falls still happen. Here are a few things that you can do, in the event that your elderly loved one experiences a fall in your presence:
Call for help right away
Do not attempt to move the person
If the person is conscious, do your best to help them remain calm. Falling can be very frightening, so aim to be as mellow and reassuring as possible.
The following list provides helpful information regarding: caregiving, healthy aging, and fall prevention.
Caregiver action Network
10400 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 500
Kensington, MD 20895-3944
Family Caregiver Alliance
785 Market Street, Suite 750
San Francisco, CA 94103
601 E Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20049
National Council on Aging
1901 L Street, NW 4th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20036