June is National Safety Month so it only seems appropriate to talk about elderly fall risk and prevention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of 4 adults (65 and over) will have a fall; 1 out of 5 falls will lead to a serious injury. Falls by the elderly often lead to hospitalizations, loss of independence, and in some cases, may be fatal.
Falls can be a very traumatic events. After just one fall, an elderly person may become fearful of recurrent falls. The memory of a fall tends to limit older adults from engaging in future activities and socialization. As a result, decreased mobility, depression, social isolation, and a feeling of losing control is common.
Why is the elderly population at such a great risk for falls? Multiple factors play into the risk of falling. Some risks are preventable while others can be managed with support. Take note of the following, common risk factors leading to elderly falls.
Common Fall Hazards at Home
Some of the most common risks that can lead to falling at home include:
- Slippery floors
- Uneven stairs
- Improper footwear
- Misuse of walking aide equipment (walkers and canes)
Common Conditions Increasing Fall Risk
A decline in mobility and certain diseases/conditions can also increase the risk of an older adult experiencing a fall. When an elderly person has a hospitalization, they are more likely to lose muscle strength, causing them to be imbalanced. Common conditions that have the potential to lead to a fall include:
- Loss of vision
- Heart disease
- Low blood pressure
- Parkinson’s disease
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Common Medications Can Increase Fall Risk
Common medications in the older adult population can pose a higher risk of falling. Even over the counter medications, such as those used for cold or flu symptoms, can play a part in falls.
As we age, our bodies take longer to break down medicines. Over time, medications have a greater chance of interacting with each other. Even if taken at different times, drugs can linger in the body causing negative interactions. Common side effects include dizziness, sleepiness, and confusion.
4 Ways to Prevent Elderly Falls
So what are some ways to prevent and manage falls?
- Improve the home’s environmental factors. Rugs can be taken out and clutter cleaned up. Look into adding grab bars by the shower and toilet, and installing brighter lights around the house. Get fitted for proper shoes with non-skid bottoms. Make sure you are using the right walking aide for your condition, and are educated on the proper way to use it.
- Talk to your doctor about evaluating your risk of falling. Be sure to keep your physician updated on all medications you are taking and have them review all potential side effects.
- Schedule an annual eye appointment. You should see an eye doctor at least once per year. As we age, our eyesight can decline quickly. Certain diseases can also cause a loss in healthy eyesight. Do not overlook any changes your eyes may be experiencing.
- Exercising and working on balance. Staying active and practicing balance exercises can greatly reduce the chance of elderly fall risks. Even simple leg exercises can make a big difference. Make sure you always get up slowly, especially if you have low blood pressure.
Whether you are coming from hospital to home or had a recent fall, exploring home care assistance is critical in elderly fall prevention. Home care can offer help with transfers, medication management, meal preparation, housework assistance, and getting proper medical equipment.
Commonwise’s Care Managers help families navigate fall risk prevention. Call 434.202.8565 to schedule a Fall Risk Prevention Consult.