Senior Fall Risks and How to Prevent Falls
Falls are a part of life. Everyone, at some point in their life, has fallen both publically and at home. But as we get older, falls begin to pose a severe danger to our physical health and safety. Seniors face many conditions and symptoms that can lead to falls, including a lack of balance and brittle bones. On top of that, as we age, our bodies start slowing down and have trouble recovering quickly from falls and other injuries.
In the United States, almost 3 million seniors are treated for fall-related injuries each year. The majority of treated injuries are for broken hips and head injuries. While falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among seniors over the age of 65, there are many things seniors can do preemptively to help lower their chances of suffering from a fall or fall-related injury. That being said, here are several risk factors that lead to senior falls, as well as a few things seniors can do in their day-to-day lives to help prevent falls.
Why do senior falls happen?
A lot of the time, senior falls are just accidents that can't be avoided. People fall down all the time, and no amount of strength can prevent the tumble. However, most are preventable. By understanding risk factors, seniors are more likely to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Here are a few risk factors for senior falls:
Hunger and Thirst: While often overlooked, your hunger and your thirst play a big part in your safety. Without a steady flow of nutrients to the brain, we can have trouble standing up, balancing, and walking around. Staying hydrated is crucial, so be sure to sip water every hour and eat small meals whenever possible. It's also essential that seniors eat a diet rich in Vitamin D to help keep bones and joints healthy.
Poor Vision: Poor vision is another contributing factor to falls. If your glasses prescription or your contacts aren't getting the job done anymore, it's time for you to get your eyes checked. Neglecting your vision can lower your depth perception and your ability to see in low-light areas, which are both risky situations for accidental falls.
Medication interactions: If your medications ever make you feel unsteady or shaky, you may be at risk for a fall. A lot of prescription medications have mind-altering side effects, including vision impairment, dizziness, trouble concentrating, and more. Sometimes, drugs have no side effects until they're being taken with other medications. If you notice unpleasant side effects from drug interactions, be sure to talk to your doctor to find something more suitable for you.
Poor balance: Balance naturally declines with age. Whether it's from age-related muscle-degeneration, osteoporosis, or only instability from lack of exercise, being unsteady on your feet puts you at risk for a fall. Luckily, there are many stretches and exercises that can be practiced daily to improve balance and strength in the muscles around the joints and core.
Arthritis: Arthritis is another major contributor to falls among the elderly. According to a report conducted by the CDC, adults with arthritis were more than twice as likely to report two or more falls or fall-related injuries per year. Arthritis is a bugger because it often requires medications to keep under control. However, a combination of exercise, safety measures, and drugs, people with arthritis can lower the likelihood of experiencing a fall.
Other health concerns: Sometimes, falls are directly correlated to symptoms of health problems you may be unaware of having. Conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer's Disease, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease can pose a serious threat to safety. If you are experiencing falls, be sure to get to the doctor to rule out possible health concerns or treat the problem.
A combination of factors: If you fit into more than one of the categories above, you are at a higher risk for a fall. To start improving, be sure always to tell your doctor when you fall. Explain what you were doing, how you felt before it happened, and how you felt after it happened. That way, the doctor can help you ensure a higher quality of life as you manage your symptoms.
Senior Safety Tips to Help Prevent Falls
For seniors who want to stay safe as they age, the goal is to take action now to prevent falls later. Here are a few crucial ways that seniors can prevent falls, according to the Merck Manuals:
Wear non-slip shoes: Shoes can make or break seniors when it comes to fall prevention. Flat shoes with firm, non-slip soles are ideal for seniors who are at risk for falling. Shoes with sturdy ankle supports can also encourage proper posture and lower the risk of falling by helping them to maintain their balance.
Exercise frequently: Exercise nourishes the body and can help to combat many of the balance and coordination issues associated with age. Luckily, senior exercise doesn't have to be super intense. Many find that balance exercises in the form of tai chi or yoga can help strengthen the muscles around the joints and encourage balance as you age. If you're not sure where to start with exercising, you can always talk to a physical therapist. Physical therapists can help you build strength and move around independently while also strengthening core muscle groups that help prevent falls in the long term.
Carry a medical alert device: While not a true fall-prevention tip, medical alert devices are crucial for senior safety, especially if they should suffer an accidental fall through no fault of their own. Medical alert devices, also known as personal emergency response systems (PERS), can connect seniors to help immediately following a fall or other medical emergency with the press of a button. Having one accessible at all times ensures long-term freedom and independence as well as a direct line to safety in the worst-case scenario.
Stand up slowly: For many seniors, a combination of hunger, dehydration, medications, and more can lead to dizziness and disorientation upon standing. In this case, seniors should make an effort to always sit before standing and standing up slowly. Making an effort to stand up slowly can lower the risk of a fall.
Keep prescriptions current: As we mentioned above, prescription medications can cause instability. If you ever feel like your medications are making you feel unsteady, dizzy, or otherwise, be sure to talk to your doctor to discuss other treatment options. If you are over age 65 and see more than one doctor, there's a good chance you were prescribed a medication that interacts negatively with other common medications. By going over every drug you take with your primary care physician, you can limit your risk of falling from medication side effects.
Get your eyes checked: Many contributing factors can degrade the quality of vision, ultimately increasing the risk of falling in adults over age 65. By maintaining regular contact with a vision specialist or eye doctor, seniors can ensure their vision prescriptions are up to snuff at all times, lowering their risk of falling.
Other ways to prevent falls
There are many other different ways to help prevent falls around the home. LogicMark's blog is full of various resources that can help prevent falls or teach seniors how to take the proper actions after a fall to ensure their health and safety. Check out our "falls" category for several different resources that can help seniors to prevent falls in and around the home.