Falls happen. They happen throughout life at all ages and stages--as toddlers, at recitals, on college campuses, on the sidewalk, and even at home. But there comes a time when falls become a real hazard to your health and safety. That time typically coincides with issues that pop up with age, such as brittle bones, lack of balance and chronic health problems, making senior safety a main priority as you get older.
Fall prevention often isn’t taken seriously until an accident happens, but it is an essential part of healthy aging. Falls in the elderly are no joke, they have very real consequences, including emergency hospital trips and broken bones. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control reports that 2.8 million older adults are treated in Emergency Rooms every year for fall-related injuries, most often with a head injury or broken hip. There’s no need to wait until you experience a fall to practice fall prevention; knowing the risk factors and how you can practice senior safety in your day-to-day life may end up saving your life.
Factors That Contribute To Falls In The Elderly
Sometimes falls in the elderly really are accidents that cannot be avoided. But more often than not, falls are preventable and happen due to a lack of knowledge regarding the risk factors rather. Here are some of the main factors that lead to senior falls:
- Decline in balance. As we age, our body naturally experiences changes that can affect our balance or our gait. Sometimes this can occur due to age-related muscle degeneration, but it can also be connected to osteoporosis or simply a fear of instability and falling.
- Dehydration or malnutrition. As often overlooked contributors to falls in the elderly, dehydration and malnutrition can be dangerous to senior safety if not managed properly. Older adults need to make sure that they are getting enough Vitamin D and water in order to remain strong in body and mind.
- Arthritis. The CDC has also collected data that suggests that arthritis is a major contributor to senior falls. Among the key findings was that “compared to adults without arthritis, adults with arthritis were more than twice as likely to report two or more falls or an injury related to a fall.”
- Undiagnosed health concerns. Sometimes falls can actually be a symptom of a larger health problem occurring within the body. Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and even Diabetes can all cause falls as you age. If you think you are experiencing falls due to one of the aforementioned health concerns, be sure to speak with your physician immediately in order diagnose and treat the problem.
- Medication interactions. Prescription medications and medication mismanagement are also big contributors to falls in the elderly. Some medications can have side effects that include dizziness, vision impairment, and a variety of others that can lead to falls. Medication mismanagement is also a serious issue that affects senior safety and can lead to falls, in addition to other dangerous side effects.
In some cases, these factors could co-exist with each other, creating a greater fall risk.
Putting Senior Safety First
The first step in maintaining senior safety with age is mastering fall prevention. The Merck Manuals, which provide consumers with research-backed information about health and wellness, has identified the main areas of fall prevention that should be considered:
- Regular exercise. Exercise is a wonderful way to try and combat the age-related balance and coordination issues. There are specific balance exercises for seniors, such as yoga and tai chi, that can help to keep you on your feet as you age.
- Find appropriate shoes. Footwear is an important aspect of fall prevention. Choosing flat shoes with firm non-slip rubber soles and sturdy ankle support can help you maintain your balance as you navigate the world.
- Standing up from beds and chairs slowly. Standing up too quickly can lead to dizziness or disorientation, so making an effort to take it slowly will lower your chances of a fall risk.
- Review all prescription medications with your primary physician. If you see more than one doctor, which many people over the age of 65 do, there is a good chance that you were prescribed a medication that does not interact well with another prescription. By reviewing the full list with your primary physician, you can be sure that you’ll limit your risk of medication-induced falls and focus on your health.
- Get vision checked regularly. Sometimes cataracts or degraded vision can contribute to senior falls. Seeing an eye doctor on a regular basis will ensure that your vision and glasses prescriptions are always up to date, so that you can see more clearly and lower your risk of falling.
- Consult a physical therapist. A physical therapist can help you feel more confident in your own body, especially if you have been diagnosed with a health condition that limits your mobility. Whether helping to build strength, or helping you learn how to move around with a cane or walker, a physical therapist is a wonderful tool for fall prevention.
Another wonderful tool to utilize for senior safety is a medical alert device. Whether you’re at home or out and about in the world, a medical alert device won’t be able to prevent you from falling, but it can connect you to immediate help in the event of experiencing a fall, or any other medical emergency.