Every 19 minutes, a senior dies from a fall. Falls are the most common cause of fatal injury in seniors. 25% of seniors fall every year. Emergency rooms are filled with patients that have fallen with an older adult being treated for a fall every 11 seconds.
Fall prevention for seniors is very important.
If falls are prevented, there’s less of a risk of death and long-lasting mobility impairment. The best approach to prevent falls is to:
1. Create an Environment That is Fall-Proof
Your environment is the key most important aspect when trying to prevent falls. If you have obstacles in the way that you trip over and fall, this is going to be a major fall risk. The goal is to make the environment friendly for you.
Everyone can fall on clutter or loose carpeting.
A fall-proof environment consists of doing the following:
- Arrange furniture in a way that is easy to walk around
- Clear all walkways of clutter
- Throw rugs and electrical cords should not be scattered on the floor
- Apply skid-proof backing to area rugs that move
- Dry floors to ensure they’re not slippery
- Provide ample lighting in high fall areas, such as stairwells
- Install grab bars or other safety items in bathrooms
- Install railings for stairways
Seniors that have difficulty bending may fall when trying to bend over into a cabinet or closet. The best way of avoiding these potential falls is to minimize the need to bend by reorganizing spaces. This may mean placing pots and pans in a new, higher area, or rearranging a closet so that all items are easily in-reach.
2. Make Physical Activity a Priority
Lack of physical activity is often the cause of a fall. A person’s muscles begin to weaken as they age, and regular physical activity can lead to:
When a person’s activity levels start to decline, this puts the person at a greater risk of falling. Lack of strength and coordination can be combatted with regular activity. Physical therapists or doctors can recommend activity programs that are ideal for your level of mobility and function.
You can also choose to:
- Join a gym
- Form a walking group with other seniors
- Play a sport
Exercise can be any physical activity that you enjoy. The goal is to get moving and stay active. If you follow one tip, make sure it’s this one. The exercise, when using heavier weight, will strengthen the bones making your bones less likely to suffer from breaks or fractures.
3. Reduce Falls with the Proper Footwear
Proper footwear may mean the difference between a slip and fall or standing on your own two feet. Seniors have a tendency to wear slippers, and the bad thing about slippers is that they:
- Lack proper foot support
- Wear quickly
- Cause slips
Shoes and sneakers should be supportive with a low heel and have non-slip soles. You should wear supportive shoes, and shoes that are backless should be avoided. Pay close attention to the wear of your shoes, too.
Buying new shoes as needed and ensuring that the shoes that you do wear are comfortable and supportive will greatly reduce the risk of a slip and fall.
4. Use the Right Mobility Aids
Fall prevention for seniors requires a complete understanding of a person’s own level of mobility. A person that has trouble with their balance shouldn’t rely on countertops and walls to stop falling.
The right mobility aid can reduce falls by supporting a person.
A safe and active life starts with a mobility aid – if needed. What’s the right mobility aid for you? This is a decision that is best assessed by a:
- Physical therapist
- Occupational therapist
Seniors should also be educated on how best to use a mobility device to lessen their risk of falling. Mobility aids can provide the support needed to maintain and even strengthen muscles.
5. Pay Attention to Medications
The medications that you’re prescribed have warnings for a reason: read them. A lot of medications will be used to affect a person’s:
Side effects of medicine can include drowsiness, blood pressure fluctuations, dizziness and confusion. Medication reviews, which are offered by a pharmacist or doctor, will evaluate all of the medications a person is taking to ensure there are no conflicts that occur.
Over-the-counter medications can also increase the risk of falling.
A thorough check of all medications is highly recommended and may reduce the risk of falling dramatically.
6. Routine Eye Exams Help
Your eyes allow you to scan and understand the world around you. A person that has impaired vision, even if the impairment is slight, may not see their surroundings clearly. When a person’s vision is interrupted, this leads to trips and potential falls.
Eye disease can also be present in an older person.
The correct prescription lenses are vital to stopping falls. Seniors that are given bifocals or trifocals will want to practice walking with their new lenses to ensure that their vision is not impaired.
It’s essential that a person can see properly when trying to stop falls from occurring.
Fall prevention starts with being proactive and doing everything in your power to reduce the risk of falls. From the right eyewear to see clearly to maintaining muscle mass and even being evaluated for a walking aid, doctors and physical therapists can help.
You can prevent falls, breaks and fractures. A doctor can recommend a personalized strategy to prevent falls, injury and improve mobility, too.
Allie has worked in care facilities for the last 15 years providing mobility and health care to seniors of all skill levels. She is passionate about senior advocacy and is and loves to spend her free time in the outdoors.