Falls pose a major health hazard for older adults. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one out of four (or 25%) of older adults experience a fall each year. Often, seniors who fall experience serious—or even deadly—consequences. Around 3 million seniors go to the emergency room each year for fall-related injuries (such as head trauma or broken bones). Falls are also responsible for more than 32,000 deaths among older adults annually. In total, falls represent the main cause of serious injury among older adults.
Fortunately, falls can be prevented through a combination of lifestyle changes and home modifications. Here, we’ll discuss the factors that contribute to falls, go over some fall prevention tips, and discuss other steps you can take to keep yourself or your loved ones safe.
Why Falls Happen
Falls can be caused by a variety of personal and environmental factors. Steep stairs, poorly lit or messy living areas, and difficult-to-reach shelving or storage spaces present tripping hazards for anyone, not just elderly folks. However, as we age, our strength and balance tend to decrease, which can make falls more likely or affect our ability to catch ourselves.
Age-related changes in eyesight, hearing, and health can also increase the likelihood of falling. Some medications can also make falling more likely, particularly if the drug in question affects your blood pressure or central nervous system. Being on multiple medications also increases the risk that two or more of them will interact in a way that may cause unsteadiness or compromised balance.
What’s more, many older adults experience loss of bone mass (osteoporosis) or muscle mass (sarcopenia). Both sarcopenia and osteoporosis are correlated with greater risk of bone fracture and other serious injuries. Osteoporosis, in particular, leads to bones becoming more weak and brittle, increasing the likelihood that they will break on impact.
How To Prevent Falls
Fall prevention in the elderly is about identifying and mitigating any risk factors. Start by taking stock of your home and physical health—which of the aforementioned risks are present in your life? Are there any other factors (either personal or environmental) that might pose a potential fall danger?
Once you’ve identified your risk factors, you can take steps to address them. While not an exhaustive list, the following fall prevention strategies are a good starting point:
- Eliminate Trip Hazards
Once you start noticing them, you might be surprised by the number of trip hazards in your home. Start by clearing all walkways to ensure that your house is easily and safely navigable. This includes:
- Removing or securing any rugs that might bunch or slip
- Rearranging furniture and decorations for ease of mobility
- Securing cords and moving any other clutter or items on the floor
- Remove uneven thresholds or mark them with bright tape or paint
- Make Any Necessary Home Modifications
If you plan to stay in your home, you may need to make some adjustments to your living spaces to ensure that they remain accessible and safe as you age. For example:
- Install grab bars near the toilet and in your shower, and handrails along your stairs
- Install lights in any dark hallways or corners
- Put non-slip bath mats in your shower or bathtub
- Ensure that commonly used items are stored in an easy-to-access place. If there are any items that remain out of reach, call a friend or ask for assistance getting them down
- Stay Active
Among the many benefits of exercise are that it can help with fall prevention and also mitigate the risk of serious injury in the event that you do have a fall. Regular physical activity keeps your muscles strong, can help prevent bone loss, and can improve your balance. While any exercise that builds strength is helpful, workouts like yoga and tai chi can be especially beneficial to your balance.
- Talk to a Medical Professional
Consider seeing a doctor to talk to them about any drug-related or medical risk factors. This is especially important if you’re on multiple prescription medications or have any chronic health conditions that affect your mobility.
- Make a Plan
In spite of our best efforts, accidents still happen sometimes. For that reason, it’s important to be prepared for a fall in addition to taking preventive measures. Make a habit of keeping your cell phone with you at all times, or keeping a list with emergency numbers near the phone. Alternatively, consider getting a medical alert device that will allow you to contact emergency services immediately.
Sometimes, Fall Prevention Means a Change
From a fall safety standpoint, some homes simply aren’t suitable for seniors without major (and cost-prohibitive) remodeling. For people in that situation, fall prevention might mean relocating to a new home. When it comes to private housing, ground-floor apartments and single-story homes are best for avoiding falls. You might also consider senior and independent living communities. These places offer homes that are designed with fall prevention in mind. Moreover, residents have the peace of mind of knowing that in the event that an accident happens, trained help is available 24/7.
Seabury provides peaceful living opportunities for adults ages 50 and older looking for fulfilling, independent lifestyles. Our philosophy centers the physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness of our Residents. Living options range from independent apartments and villas to cottages as well. Our continuum of care model is designed to make Residents’ lives as comfortable as possible. Your Life Plan Contract at Seabury also includes, should you require it in the future, a transition to assisted living, memory support, and nursing care services for the same monthly fee. Contact us today for more information!