Reducing Fall Risks for Seniors
According to the National Council on Aging, every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room and every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall. What are the reasons behind these alarming statistics, why do falls happen, and what can seniors do to prevent them?
Why Do Seniors Fear Falling?
As we age, there is an underlying fear of falling. Although you may not have fallen before, you may have heard stories about how someone fell, broke their hip, and later died; or you may have heard of how someone fell, but there wasn’t anyone around to assist them. Because of these stories, it's not unusual for seniors to limit or avoid activities such as exercising, shopping, or participating in social activities.
Why Do Falls Happen?
There are a myriad of factors that contribute to seniors falling, with many of them being products of aging. However, there are other contributing factors as well.
Medications. While medicines are used to treat health issues, they can also cause side effects. Depending on the type of medicine that’s being taken, side effects such as dizziness, confusion, or drowsiness can impact the ability to function normally and increases the risks of falls. “The more medications you take, the more likely you are to fall,” the National Institute on Aging states.
Lack of reflexes. As we get older, reflexes aren’t as sharp as they previously were, such as realizing you’re going to fall or catching yourself when you do fall. ScienceDaily writes, “Seniors need twice as long as young adults to realize they are falling, a delay that puts them at increased risk for serious injury.”
Sickness. Illnesses such as diabetes, problems with the thyroid, and high blood pressure have been shown to negatively affect balance.
Environmental hazards. Some fall factors aren’t biological. They can be external, such as having loose stairs, clutter on the floor, rugs, inadequate lighting, uneven sidewalks, lack of railings in bathrooms, rain, and patches of ice and snow.
Not being physically active. Studies have shown that not exercising can lead to bone loss and lack of strength, which can lead to imbalance.
How to Can Seniors Prevent Falls?
While there are many ways to increase the risk of falls, there are even more preventative measures that can be taken to decrease the chance of falling.
Review medications. When you receive a prescription from a doctor, ask about the side effects of the medicine and review the provided literature. If you find that you’re having adverse side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, or confusion, talk to your doctor or your pharmacist right away.
Make your home safe. Making your home safe is an effective way to reduce your fall risk. Remove any objects from the floor that can easily be tripped over or snagged such as runners, rugs, and cords. Additionally, make sure there are proper handrails available to support you in getting up, going to the bathroom, and taking a bath/shower.
Get enough sleep. There has proven to be a direct link to the amount of sleep an older adult receives and the increase in fall risk. As reported by ScienceDaily, “When we are fit and in good health, our body is able to adapt and we develop a strategy to keep our balance, avoiding falls and incidents. This ability is reduced with ageing or when there are other conditions that may compromise our ability to adapt.” It is recommended that individuals aged 65 and older receive seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
Stay physically active. Whether it’s walking for 20 minutes, engaging in light aqua aerobics, or simply engaging in light stretching, exercising keeps the body flexible and strong. If you’re ever concerned about the types of exercise you should incorporate into your life, consult with your physician.
Use technology. At select Provision Living Senior Communities, we use an innovative software called Foresite Eldercare to prevent, track, and respond to our residents’ falls. This system consistently communicates residents’ fall risks directly to our community health team, which allows our staff to intervene and provide the appropriate follow-up evaluation and care.
If you’re concerned about the fall risks for you or your loved one and find that you may need additional support, we invite you to chat with one of our care consultants today.
Please note: The information provided in this article does not substitute for medical advice and should be used for general information purposes only. If you have questions about your health, please consult with your physician.
About the Author
Aleshia Patterson is the digital and social media manager for Provision Living Senior Communities. Her strength is in developing digital marketing strategies, streamlining content, and enhancing digital engagement. She holds a bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Missouri-Saint Louis and a master's degree in communication arts from Webster University.