Falls can be deadly.
In fact, according to the World Health Organization, it is the second leading cause of accidental injury deaths worldwide. One set of people that seems to bear the brunt of this problem are seniors, people over 65 years.
To emphasize how bad a problem falling could be among them, the Centre for Disease Control stated that every second, a senior in America suffers a fall. In 2014 alone, older Americans had about 29 million falls.
Falls are terrible in older people because they are more prone to having complex injuries, head trauma, and even death from tumbling over.
Looking at this shocking statistics, two questions may pop up in your mind.
- Why are older people more likely to fall?
- How do we stop them from falling and reduce the rate of fall-related injury and death?
Well, this is what we will try to answer in this article. We will give a detailed explanation telling you why older people fall more than other age groups, and practical strategies you can implement in your home to prevent your elderly parents, grandparents, relatives, and family friends from falling and getting injured.
Why Seniors Are More Prone To Falls
1. Chronic Diseases:
As people get older, the risk of developing chronic diseases that can cause falls rises. Some of these diseases can hamper mobility, balance or gait, hence making an elderly person more likely to fall. Some of these diseases are osteoarthritis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.
One thing older people and their relatives need to pay attention to is the medications they are taking. The reason is simple. Many meds that are prescribed may have side effects that may include drowsiness and loss of balance. Some categories of drugs that can cause this are antihypertensives, antipsychotics, antidepressants, sedatives and opioids.
3. Vision Problems:
As people get older, their vision could begin to decrease. Many of them may suffer from cataracts, presbyopia or inability to see things as clearly as they used to, especially when the lighting isn’t excellent. When an elderly person can’t see an object that is in the way, a fall is almost certain.
4. Loss of Bone and Muscle Mass:
Elderly people are more likely to have a decreased bone density. It is called osteopenia when mild and osteoporosis when severe. Also, they’re more likely to have weaker muscles that may not be in top shape, hence, they are more likely to lose their stability, flexibility and coordination.
This factor also worsens the effect of a fall because it makes their bodies less able to cope with the trauma that results from a fall. This is why elderly people are more likely to fracture their hips.
Now that we have seen 4 possible reasons why seniors are more prone to falls, let’s discuss practical things you can do to prevent them from falling.
Practical Strategies To Prevent Falls in Elderly People
1. Light up the home:
Whenever you have an elderly person in your home, you’ll need to make sure there is adequate light for them to see objects and things that could potentially trip them. Make sure the stairway, rooms, and corridors are well lit. You should also install nightlights in their rooms so that they can turn them on if they need to use the bathroom at night (especially when they are sleepy).
2. Avoiding loose clothing:
To prevent a fall in a home, elderly people are advised to wear clothes that fit. Loose clothing tends to be able to get stuck on a door handle, increasing the chances of throwing the person off balance and hence a fall. Sometimes, loose or oversized trousers could drag on the ground, making a person more likely to slip and fall.
3. Review medications:
Elderly people should always get their medications reviewed from time to time by their doctors. This gives the opportunity to discuss potential side effects with the doctor. Also, it is not strange for people to keep taking medications, even beyond the duration the doctor prescribed, just because they feel it is still useful.
4. Get eyes checked:
Since vision problems is a common reason for falls in elderly people, elderly people must make appointments with their ophthalmologist to discuss the need for prescription glasses or other aids. Also, during this visit, any detected eye anomaly can be properly diagnosed and treated quickly.
5. Install home equipment:
Some adjustments in the home can go a long way in preventing falls in elderly people. Grab bars can be installed in the bathtub and stairway. Also, teak benches can be used in the shower, and for those who have an impaired mobility, a tub transfer bench can be used to get them into the bathtub safely.
6. Wear the right footwear:
The correct footwear can make a massive difference when it comes to preventing elderly people from falling. Ideally, shoes and slippers with non-skid soles can be helpful, also avoiding walking around with bare socks is important in preventing falls in elderly people.
Guest post by Dr. Charles-Davies of 25 Doctors