Fall Prevention in Older Adults
Falling can become a huge fear as one ages. Older adults, 65 and older, can be at risk for serious injury from falling. The fear of falling can lead older adults to avoid daily activities, such as walking, showering, or leaving the house. If you are an older adult, it is important to not let the fear of falling stop you from living your life. Taking steps to prevent falls has been proven to be effective and helpful. As you age, there are numerous reasons way falls are more likely to happen, including changes in health conditions and side effects from medications used to treat such health conditions. Please take the time to learn fall-prevention measures if you are an older adult or if you have a loved one living with this fear.
The increased risk of falling as you age can be due to many factors, including:
Natural aging: A decline in your eyesight, hearing, and reflexes can occur.
Health conditions: Certain health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or thyroid disease can affect the body’s ability to maintain balance.
Medications: Side effects from medicine, such as dizziness, sleepiness, or confusion can increase the likely hood of a fall.
Home Hazards: Safety hazards in the home that can cause a fall include a lose rug, electrical cords, or clutter.
If you are over the age of 65, you can implement a fall prevention plan to prevent serious injury, including:
Stay active: Physical activity, with the approval of your health care provider, can decrease your chances of falling. Physical activity, such as walking, yoga, or swimming can improve your flexibility, make you stronger, and improve your balance and coordination. If you fear physical activity, consult your health care provider. He/she will provide you with the right exercise plan for to improve your strength, balance, and flexibility.
Examine health conditions: As you age, you may develop health conditions that impact your gait or balance. Many health conditions can increase your risk of falling, including arthritis, chronic pain, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and blood disorders. Consult your health care provider about all health conditions affecting you and the steps you can take to manage your illnesses, decreasing your risk of a fall.
Examine medication side effects: Talk to your health care provider about side effects of all medications you take. Medications can have many side effects that can increase your risk of falling. If you experience dizziness, confusion, tiredness, or any other side effects, you think are caused by a specific drug tell your doctor immediately. He/she may try weaning you off the medicine or recommend trying a new medicine.
Remove home hazards: To make your home safter look around and remove any hazards. Hazards to be removed may include boxes, newspapers, electrical cords, or loose rugs. Other steps you can take to make your home safer include repair loose carpeting or floorboards, clean spilled liquids immediately, and use nonslip mats in the shower.
Consider assistive devices: Assistive devises include handrails, a walker, a cane, a raised toilet seat with armrest, shower grab bars, and a shower seat. Your health care provider can help you decide what assistive devices are right for you.
Keep home brightly lit: To prevent falling it is important to have a well-lit living space. This will help you avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. To keep a well-lit home, you can place night lights in hallways, bedrooms, and bathrooms. You can ensure there is clear path to light switches. Lastly, you can store flashlights in easy to reach places.
Wear proper footwear: Proper footwear is an important measure for fall prevention. High heels, soft slippers, or shoes with thin soles can make you fall. Wear proper fitting, non-skid, sturdy shoes to prevent falling. Also, do not walk in socks or stockings as they can be slippery on flooring.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture. Falling can be scary if you are an older adult. Do not let this fear stop you from living your life. Follow all preventative measures above to stay safe and healthy.
1. “Fall Prevention: Simple Tips to Prevent Falls.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 4 Oct. 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/fall-prevention/art-20047358.