A common fear among the elderly is the fear of falling, and when analyzing current statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is not difficult to understand why. One out of every three adults aged 65 or older fall throughout the course of a single year, which can result in both fatal and nonfatal injuries, including brain traumas and bone fractures. Due to these alarming statistics, researchers have been in search of a way to reduce the risk of injuries when a fall occurs, and after completing a new study involving Swedish nursing homes, they believe they have found a surprising yet effective answer: special flooring.
A Surprising Solution
Over the course of two and a half years, the amount of falls experienced by 57 female residents of Swedish nursing homes was recorded. The average age of the women in the study was 85, and 39 participants experienced a fall before.
Throughout the study, an alarming total of 254 falls occurred on regular flooring while only 77 falls occurred on the special impact absorbing flooring. What’s even better is that only 17 percent of falls caused an injury if they occurred on the special flooring versus 30 percent of falls resulting in an injury on regular flooring. Interestingly enough, the type of flooring did not seem to make a difference in the number of major injuries that occurred, but the number of minor injuries greatly decreased on the special flooring.
So what makes this flooring so special? Other than decreasing the likelihood of experiencing a fall, the half-inch thick tiles are consisted of a spongy material on the inside, resulting in a 65 to 85 percent decrease in the force of impact when compared to regular tiles or concrete floors. However, the one downside to this flooring is that it cannot be applied to wet areas such as the bathroom, which is where a large majority of falls occur.
The study authors concluded that the number of fall-related injuries can be reduced by 60 percent through this special flooring.
Stopping the Chain Reaction
The fear of falling is unfortunately a vicious cycle: once you experience a fall, you develop a fear of falling, which may lead you to limit your activities. Limiting your activities actually reduces your mobility and physical fitness, which in turn results in an increased risk of falling. Although it seems counterintuitive, the best way to prevent a fall is by facing this fear head on.
While this special absorbent flooring undergoes more research before it is an option for homeowners, here’s some simple steps you can take to decrease your risk of falls:
- Exercise often. A loss of physical fitness can be one of the biggest contributors to increasing your fall risk. Focus on exercises that strengthen your legs and balance. Tai chi is a great low-impact exercise that improves your balance along with your flexibility, muscle strength and aerobic conditioning. Starting a new exercise routine can be daunting, but just remember that the sooner you start a new routine, the sooner you decrease your risk of falling.
- Review your medications. Both prescription and over-the-counter medicines often have dizziness or drowsiness as a side effect. It is important to be aware of any medications that may be putting you at risk of falling so you can take precaution and even possibly change medications.
- Have regular eye exams. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests having an eye exam at least once a year. Always update your prescription glasses, and even glasses with single vision distance lenses can help.
- Be aware of home safety tools. Reducing tripping hazards, adding railings on both sides of a stairway and improving the lighting in your home can all be easy first steps in reducing your fall risk. Since a large majority of falls occur in the bathroom, add grab bars outside and inside your shower or tub and next to the toilet.
It is always easier to take these preventative steps before a fall occurs than to recover from a fall, so be sure to be proactive in reducing your fall risk.