One fall can be life changing for a senior. In fact, according to the National Institute on Aging, falling is the leading cause of loss of independence, hospital admittance for trauma and injury-related deaths in seniors. On top of this, some seniors who have taken a spill limit their activities because they are afraid of it happening again. This can lead to social isolation and muscle weakness, which only increase the risk of falling.
To mark the ninth annual National Falls Prevention Day, which takes place September 22, I want to share some simple actions you can take to address common risk factors.
1. Muscle Weakness
According to a report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, weakness, especially in the legs, increases the odds of falling fourfold.
Action: A doctor can suggest exercises for your loved one or refer them to a senior’s exercise program or a physical therapist who can create an individualized (or customized) program.
2. Walking and Balance Deficits
According to a report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, seniors with a history of walking or balance deficits are three times more likely to fall than those with a normal walking pattern.
Action: As with muscle weakness, exercise is one of the best solutions for someone who is unsteady on their feet, with Tai Chi being a particularly good choice. Your loved one may also need to limit their alcohol intake and consider using an assistive device, such as a cane or walker.
3. Postural Hypotension
According to the CDC, Postural hypotension refers to a blood pressure drop when you go from lying down to sitting up or from sitting to standing. This can cause dizziness, which can increase the risk of falling.
Action: Your loved one should be encouraged to talk to their doctor as certain medications and conditions, like diabetes, can cause postural hypotension. Also, remind your loved one to always get out of bed slowly, first sitting up, then sitting on the side of the bed, then standing up and holding on to something steady. Increasing water consumption to six to eight glasses daily can also help.
According to a report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, seniors who take four or more medications are at a greater risk of falling than those who take fewer.
Action: Have your loved one’s doctor or pharmacist review medications to see if any have potential side effects like dizziness or other conditions that can lead to a fall. Their doctor may be able to prescribe other safer medications instead. Brookdale’s health and wellness directors can work directly with primary care physicians and pharmacists to help manage medication.
5. Vision Problems
According to a report by the British Medical Journal, poor eyesight can increase your loved one’s chance of falling, as they may not see hazards like a poorly lit bottom step or notice the change from carpet to slippery tiles.
Action: Ensure that your loved one has their vision checked at least once a year.
6. Environmental Hazards
An endless number of environmental factors can contribute to a fall, like:
- Poor lighting
- Loose rugs
- Slippery bath tubs
- Stairways that do not have hand rails
- Improper footwear (high heels, backless slippers)
Action: Some home hazards are easy to fix, like installing rails on stairways, improving lighting, or putting rubber mats or adhesive strips in the bath tub. This checklist also identifies other problems and potential solutions within the home. If you or your loved one are suffering from frequent falls, Brookdale Home Health, in partnership with your physician, could be an option for support in your home.
Remember that the risk of falling and fall-related problems rises with age. I urge you to take action so that your loved one is not among the one in three seniors who takes a tumble each year.