Our risk of falls climb as we age — nearly one in four adults age 65 years or older suffer a fall annually. While aging might be inevitable, falls are not. It's a myth that all older adults will suffer a fall. With the appropriate mindset, preparation initiatives, and safety precautions, you can help prevent falls.
This article discusses the most common causes of falls in older adults and critical prevention tips. We also offer tips for convincing your aging parents to use walking aids or an assistive device to keep them safe as they age in place.
Tips for Convincing Your Aging Parent to Use a Cane or Walker
Using a walker or wearing a fall-detection device might not appeal to your loved one immediately. They may believe that using a cane or walker would symbolize the beginning of the loss of their independence, causing them to put off adopting these potentially life-saving devices.
However, most older adults find that walking aids improve mobility and increase their confidence and desire to be physically active. Increased mobility and physical activity are vital for their long-term health and ability to maintain an independent lifestyle.
If your loved one struggles with the idea of getting a cane or wearing a fall-detection device, try these strategies:
- Discuss with your parent the medications they take and their side effects and how this contributes to their fall risk.
- Ask your loved one to discuss the types of assistive devices available — and their benefits — with their primary care physician.
- Discuss the potential consequences of a fall on their ability to remain independent and age in place.
Most Common Causes of Falls in Older Adults
Helping your loved ones understand how common falls are can be key to convincing your aging parents to get a cane or walker. Fall prevention begins with risk awareness, but one National Library of Medicine study shows fall risk awareness is low in older adults. Here are some of the most common causes of falls for older adults:
- Health conditions: Health conditions like arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, and heart disease can cause weakness or instability and increase fall risk.
- Cognitive impairment: Confusion or shakiness caused by dementia, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease can also raise your loved one's fall risk.
- Physical pain or impairment: Trouble walking due to chronic pain, limited mobility, or weak muscles can significantly increase fall risk.
- Medication side effects: Certain medications can cause headaches, dizziness, and confusion that contribute to falling.
- Home safety hazards: Safety hazards within the home — like loose rugs, poor lighting, fixture leaks, and electrical cords — cause many preventable falls.
5 Fall Prevention Tips for Aging Family Members
If you're concerned about an older family member falling, here are five fall-prevention tips to share with them and to keep in mind yourself.
1. Stay Physically Active
Conditions such as sarcopenia — a gradual loss of muscle mass, strength, and function as we age — and osteoporosis put older adults at a higher risk of falls. However, keeping our bones, joints, and muscles strong by taking a daily multivitamin and staying physically active can significantly reduce this risk.
Encourage your parent to combat muscle loss with regular walks around the neighborhood or by heading to your local gym a few times a week. They can also use light weights and muscle bands while watching television or reading a book. They should always check with their doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
2. Maintain a Tidy Home
Many falls occur within the home. For this reason, it's essential to keep your parent's space as tidy and clutter-free as possible. You can also schedule a home safety assessment with an occupational therapist or social worker. These professionals will identify trip, slip, and fall hazards so you can make small adjustments that instantly enhance your loved one's safety.
Here are some adjustments you can make today to reduce fall hazards within the home:
- Install secure handrails on stairs
- Ensure there is adequate lighting throughout the home
- Place no-slip strips beneath rugs
- Install grab bars near the tub and toilet
- Remove electrical cords from walkways
3. Check Eyes and Ears
Aging can affect our eyesight, hearing, and reflexes, meaning our reactions might not be as quick or sharp as they once were. Delayed responses and missed hazards due to impaired hearing or eyesight significantly increase fall risk.
If it's been a while since your parent has had their eyesight or hearing checked, consider visiting the doctor's office. An up-to-date glasses or hearing aid prescription can reduce the likelihood of preventable falls.
4. Use a Cane or Walking Device
If your parent has trouble walking, they may try to navigate their home by holding onto walls and furniture. However, this strategy can slow them down and make them more unsteady as they focus on moving from one piece of furniture to the next. Plus, larger open areas may not have anything sturdy to rely on.
Using a walking cane or another type of walking aid frees up their focus, preventing trips, slips, and falls. If your loved one is hesitant to adopt a walking device, discuss options with their primary care physician or a physical or occupational therapist. A professional can recommend a system that best fits your parent's needs and lifestyle.
If your parent adopts a cane or walker, ensure it's the right size by checking its weight, height, and grip. A walking device only enhances safety if used correctly.
5. Install a Medical Alert System
While adopting a walking aid is an effective fall prevention strategy, accidents happen. If a fall occurs, your loved one must have a backup plan. Installing a medical alert system or wearing a fall-detection device can save a life.
For example, a medical alert system can connect your parent with a highly trained life safety consultant who communicates with them through a two-way speaker after they press the alert button. These operators can dispatch emergency services if your loved one needs assistance. Automatic Fall detection devices can often sense sudden drops and alert emergency services without pressing a help button. Like all technology, nothing works 100% of the time, so a medical alert device should always be pushed if a fall occurs to ensure that you're connected to your loved ones or an emergency response team.
Prepare for Emergencies With Medical Guardian Alert Systems
Assistive devices and medical alert systems can improve your parent's mobility and confidence while aging in place. At Medical Guardian, our mission is to help older adults live a life without limits. We've designed affordable medical alert systems to fit any lifestyle. Whether your parent is interested in installing a home-based system or wearing a sleek, stylish device that moves with them, we'll help you select the best option for your loved one's needs so they can age in place safely, gracefully, and confidently.
Contact us today to speak with one of our representatives and learn more about our mobile and home-based medical alert systems. Otherwise, take our product quiz to discover which home medical system is best for your parent.