Did you know falls are the leading cause of injuries for older adults? One in four Americans age 65 and older falls every year. Falls can result in hip fractures, broken bones, and head injuries. Fall injuries can also be fatal. Fall prevention is critical to keeping seniors safe.
Even without a major injury, a fall can cause an older adult to become fearful or depressed, making it difficult for them to stay active. Preventing falls helps seniors live their best lives. Especially for aging loved ones who prefer to remain in their own homes. Fortunately, most falls can be prevented. By understanding the causes and making simple lifestyle adjustments, the risk of falls can be greatly reduced.
Factors that Lead to Falls
Understanding the reasons that people fall is the first step toward making changes that can reduce the risk. Common factors that lead to falls include:
Balance issues or muscle weakness – Most adults lose some strength, coordination, flexibility, and balance through the normal process of aging. All these things can make us less steady on our feet.
Declining vision – Vision changes due to normal aging or eye disease make it harder to see contrasting edges, trip hazards, and obstacles.
Chronic conditions – Many older adults are living with chronic conditions such as arthritis, dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, or history of stroke. Even people who manage their illness with home health support may experience some pain, depression, loss of function, or reduced activity, all of which can increase the risk of falling.
Medication interactions or side-effects – Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, drowsiness, or dehydration that can lead to a fall. And patients taking multiple medications are at risk of problem symptoms resulting from drug interactions.
Hidden hazards at home – Throw rugs, dim lighting, poorly placed furniture, and general clutter can all become obstacles or trip hazards that may cause someone to fall. Missing handrails near steps and stairs, a lack of grab bars in the bathroom, and uneven thresholds between rooms also pose dangers.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that some of these factors are out of your control – there are simple precautions anyone can take to manage each one.
Simple Steps to Prevent Falls
Small changes can make a big difference in reducing your fall risk. Beware of myths that will only hold you back. Older adults should enlist the help of your family or care team to take action and prevent falls.
Exercise regularly – Find a safe exercise program to build balance, strength, and flexibility. Walking, water workouts, and tai chi are all good options for aging adults. Check with your doctor before starting a new physical activity routine.
Get an annual eye exam – Your eyes and ears are key to keeping you on your feet. Visit an eye doctor each year to check your vision and update your eyeglasses. And ask your primary care doctor to check your hearing at each annual physical.
Talk with your doctor – Learn what side effects your medications may cause, and tell your doctor if you experience any symptoms. Ask whether alternative medications or non-drug interventions are an option to manage your condition while reducing your risk of fall.
Clear clutter and reduce reaching – Keep walkways and stairs clear of shoes, books, and cords. Consider rearranging coffee tables or other furniture to create more open paths. Move frequently used items to cabinets that are easy to reach without stretching, bending, or using a stepstool.
Make your home safer – Remove throw rugs or kitchen mats and repair loose floorboards or carpeting to prevent trip hazards. Keep your home brightly lit to avoid stumbling on objects or uneven thresholds that are hard to see. Secure handrails on both sides of stairs or steps. Consider adding grab bars to your shower and near your toilet.
Always wear sensible shoes – Avoid walking in socks or slippers with smooth soles. Wear low-heeled, rubber soled shoes for the best support and traction on multiple surfaces – even around the house.
Taking care to prevent falls helps older adults can remain healthy and independent for longer. And for anyone managing an existing condition or recovering from a stroke or cardiac incident, preventing falls is important to reduce your risk of complications and maintain your quality of life.
Support for Fall Prevention and Recovery
Paradigm offers a physical therapy program that includes exercises and education to help patients prevent falls. Additionally, therapy services can help patients recover after falls and guard against future incidents. Paradigm care providers are trained on fall prevention practices and available to support patients and families who are concerned about fall risk. Contact us for more information about how we can help you or your loved one.