7 tips to prevent falls among seniors

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Tips to prevent falls
Falls among seniors can be lethal. It is important for seniors and their families to educate themselves about fall risks and tips to prevent falls. The tips to prevent falls can be as simple as removing hazards in seniors' homes, a healthy diet, exercise, rest, assistive devices and regular medical exams. A professional live-in caregiver can help families assess the fall risks in the home and help implement tips to prevent falls for elderly safety.

Tips to prevent falls are important for the elderly. Senior Canadians are prone to multiple health issues and risks. One of these risks is the risk of falling.

 

“In Canada, 20-30 percent of seniors experience at least one fall each year, and of those seniors who experience a fall, close to 20% die within one year of the fall,” according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

 

Falls can lead to injuries and fractures among seniors,  which can take considerable time to heal. Fall-related injuries can require surgeries that carry their risks including side effects and infections, prolonged hospital stays and extensive care at home.

 

Here we explore some health conditions which carry higher risks of falls for seniors and some tips to prevent falls.

 

Which health conditions carry higher risks of falls?

Some health conditions can contribute to making the elderly more prone to falling and fractures. These include:

  1. Arthritis
  2. Obesity
  3. Functional Limitations
  4. Fear of Falling
  5. Multiple Medications
  6. Hypertension
  7. Diabetes

 

1. Arthritis: Arthritis is a painful condition that causes inflammation in the joints. Because of their lower muscle power, people with arthritis are at a higher risk of falling and harming themselves. They also have poor balance when standing, which puts them at risk of falling. Care attendants and mobility-assisted devices can play a strong role in reducing arthritis-associated falls.

 

2. Obesity: Obesity has been associated with an increased risk of falls among seniors 60 and above. According to a 2005 study, more than 33% of persons 65 and older in the United States fall each year, resulting in approximately 16,000 deaths per year. Fall prevention through home safety and treating obesity through regular core exercise and leg strengthening exercises may play a role in preventing falls in older age.

 

3. Functional Limitations: Senior citizens have limited mobility due to several factors. Often, such seniors can fall and not get back up. Those living alone may be unable to call for help which can lead to serious tragedies. Caregivers and fall alarms can help mitigate this risk.

 

4. Fear of Falling: With advancing age and increasing lack of mobility, many seniors develop a fear of falling and related injuries. As a result, they limit their activity levels. This, however, has a severe effect on their cognitive abilities and contributes to an increased risk of falling and fractures. Regularly exercising to improve mobility, strength and balance can help mitigate this risk.

 

5. Multiple Medications: Seniors can suffer from myriad illnesses that require them to take multiple medications. These drugs may contain sedatives which can result in dizziness, drowsiness and lack of balance. Such seniors are prone to falls and fractures. Understanding the side effects of medicine, and having care attendants and companions can mitigate these risks.

 

6. Hypertension: Hypertensive seniors can get lightheaded for various reasons including consumption of salty or fatty foods which can increase blood pressure and make them more vulnerable to falls causing life-threatening injuries. Adding home safety features, using fall monitors and alarms, and having care attendants can reduce the risk of serious falls and bone fractures.

 

7. Diabetes: Diabetics face a variety of health complications such as nerve damage and kidney function breakdown. Diabetes-related nerve damage can lead to partial blindness due to optic nerve damage. It can cause muscular weakness and numbness in the body. These can increase the chances of falls and injuries.

 

Tips to Prevent Falls

 

The best way to keep your elderly loved ones safe in their own homes against injuries and falls is to follow some simple fall prevention tips listed below.

 

1. Home Safety

Home safety is of utmost importance when it comes to seniors’ fall prevention. They spend most of their time in their homes. Even with familiar surroundings, the elderly are still at the risk of falling if the home is not safe. Some small changes around the house and regular inspection for any hazards can benefit the senior tremendously. Here are a few tips:

  • Get rid of clutter in the house. Put away any extra and unimportant items to open up as much free space as possible so that there are no chances of tripping.
  • Keep cords and wires properly tacked to the sides. These can include cords for lamps, TV  and appliances.  Replace a wired telephone with a wireless set if possible.
  • Remove rugs and check for flooring imperfections around the house. Sometimes, a rug may carry a sentimental value for a senior and cannot be removed. In that case, make sure that it is tacked firmly to the floor. Remove, glue or attach non-slip backings to any runners, table cloths or any other decorative item that can increase the chances of falling for seniors.
  • Homes usually have stairs lined with carpeting. Make sure that the carpet has been firmly attached to the staircase, otherwise, there is a huge risk of tripping and falling down the stairs which can cause multiple fractures and other severe injuries.

 

2. Regular Exercise

A regular exercise regime can be beneficial for the elderly to build up muscle strength. Muscle strength keeps them physically fit. Their joints, ligaments and tendons stay flexible. Mild weight-bearing exercises can potentially keep the bones safe from osteoporosis. Physical activity can also help with hand and eye coordination which improves balance and hence reduces falls and fractures. Seniors can talk to their healthcare provider to find a regime that best suits their needs. A caregiver can make sure that the loved one is following the exercise regularly.

 

3. Keeping Medical Appointments

It is important for senior citizens to regularly visit their primary physicians. This can help in many ways. For example, a doctor may reduce or change medication if it presents side effects such as dizziness or balance issues. In case of new symptoms or new pains, the doctor can prescribe new medications. Seniors’ eyesight and hearing should be tested regularly also. Having the right prescription eyeglasses and hearing aids can significantly reduce fall risks.  Regular medical visits also give a chance to the elderly to raise any concerns related to their health and medication. Caregivers can help seniors stay on top of their doctors’ appointments. They can accompany the seniors for doctors’ visits,  and give their comments on any changes to the activities of the elderly. This can help the physician make the right diagnosis and decisions.

 

4. Proper Shoes

The elderly have limited mobility and reduced muscle strength. Walking isn’t easy and uncomfortable footwear can make it worse. High heels, loose slippers, slick soled shoes can all increase the chances of falls. Fall prevention includes getting rid of such footwear and opting for tightly fit slippers and flat shoes and replacing regular soles with non-skid soles for better grip.  

 

5. Assistive Devices

Changing shoes is not the only way to prevent falls when walking on flat surfaces. There comes a time when a senior may require additional walking aids. Walking stands and rollators can be recommended by doctors which can be adjusted to the senior’s height. Caregivers can make sure that the assistive devices are in good shape, for example, the wheels on a walker are well oiled and secure to avoid any accidents and keep the senior safe.

 

6. Proper Diet

Seniors’ diets can affect their overall health. Eating balanced meals throughout the day can help them maintain their health and avoid mental and physical weakness. Nutritious food can increase energy levels and keep seniors active throughout the day. A professional caregiver can prepare meals and snacks that are nutritious and follow recipes that are easily digestible for older adults. With doctor recommendations, important vitamins such as calcium and vitamin D can be supplemented for stronger and better bone density. The elderly who consume alcohol need to take additional care while walking. They need to limit the amount that they consume to avoid any negative effects. They should not walk soon after drinking as their balance and vision can be impaired which can cause a nasty fall. 

 

7. Good Sleep

Seniors need proper sleep and regular rest to stay rejuvenated and alert. A good night’s sleep can ensure that they are not tired, lethargic and dizzy. Lack of sleep can cause issues such as confusion and haziness which can result in falls and fractures. Maintaining a regular sleep and rest schedule every day is important and caregivers can help implement it. 

 

Conclusion

Falls among seniors can be lethal. Seniors and their families need to educate themselves about fall risks and tips to prevent falls. The tips to prevent falls can be as simple as removing hazards in seniors’ homes, a healthy diet, exercise, rest, assistive devices and regular medical exams. A professional live-in caregiver can help families assess the fall risks in the home and help implement tips to prevent falls for elderly safety.

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