According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people over 65. They can result in fractures, broken bones and head injuries. In fact, one in four older Americans fall every year. And once they fall, they fear it will happen again, which can prevent them from participating in activities they enjoy.
The good news is that most falls can be prevented. But first, let’s look at some common factors that can lead to falls in seniors:
- Balance – As we age, we lose coordination. Inactivity can also cause imbalance and gait problems.
- Medications – Both prescription and over the counter medications can cause dizziness, which puts a senior off balance. Sometimes it is a result of medications interacting with each other.
- Vision – Less light reaches the retina as we age. It becomes more difficult to see tripping hazards and other obstacles.
- Physical Conditions – Some diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure can cause dizziness, which leads to falls.
- Clutter – Many seniors have been in their family home for years, and are surrounded by furniture and belongings they don’t want to part with. These items can cause falls if pathways aren’t clear.
Identifying the cause(s) of falls can help you come up with solutions. Here are seven fall prevention tips for seniors.
- Remove tripping hazards – This includes throw rugs, extension cords, small pieces of furniture, and yes, even pets. Transitions between rooms should be smooth also.
- Monitor medications – Discuss your loved one’s current medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, with their physician. There may be side effects or interactions that can be prevented by changing their dosage or medication.
- Improve lighting – Are rooms well-lit? If the senior can’t see well, brighter lights can help illuminate their surroundings. Install additional fixtures if necessary.
- Install grab bars – Make the bathroom safer with grab bars in the shower and near the toilet. Towel bars are not meant to withhold the weight of a person’s grasp, and can easily be ripped from the wall.
- Check their clothing – Do shoes fit well? Are slippers too smooth on the carpet? Are garments too loose that they might catch on doorknobs or handles? Do belts/wraps hang too low or catch on furniture?
- Live on one level – If they don’t live in a ranch home, can they confine their living space to one level, and thereby avoid stairs?
- Clear the clutter – Remove piles of newspapers, extra furniture, etc., from floors. Keep surfaces clean to avoid sleeves catching on tabletop clutter. Remove furniture with sharp corners.
You can’t be with your elderly parents 24 hours/day. Taking these steps will keep them safer when you are away. Hiring a trusted caregiver will also give you peace of mind.