Fall prevention in seniors

Falls can happen anytime, anywhere to people of any age. However, as people get older, the number of falls and the severity of injury resulting from falls increases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in people age 65 and older. Common injuries due to falls are head injuries, shoulder and forearm fractures, spine fractures, pelvic fractures, and hip fractures.

There is a pattern to falls among the elderly: First comes the fear of falling, then the injury, followed by hospitalization, decreased independence and mobility and, often, rehabilitation in a nursing facility or at home with a skilled caregiver. A fall can be a major life-changing event that robs an elderly person of his or her independence. It is often lays the foundation for a future that involves long term care.  Fortunately, many falls can be prevented with lifestyle choices and safety modifications in the home.


Lifestyle Choices To Prevent Falls

Maintaining your health and staying physically active can help to reduce your risk for falling. Certain medical conditions and medications may increase your risk of falling. Your doctors can review your medications for side effects. They may also prescribe physical fitness programs to build core muscles for stability. Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention.

Understand Your Health and Medications

  • Get an annual eye examination, and a physical that includes an evaluation for cardiac and blood pressure problems.
  • Maintain a diet with adequate dietary calcium and Vitamin D.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake.
  • Keep an up-to-date list of all medications and frequently provide it to all doctors with whom you consult.
  • Check with your doctor(s) about any side effects of your medications and over-the-counter drugs, as fatigue or confusion increases your risk of falling.
  • Make sure all medications are clearly labeled and stored in a well-lit area.
  • Take medications on schedule with a full glass of water, unless otherwise instructed.

Exercise

  • Talk to your doctor about starting an exercise program.
  • If possible, participate in an exercise program that aids agility, strength, balance, and coordination. Climbing stairs, jogging, hiking, dancing, weight training and other activities can help build bone strength and slow progression of osteoporosis, a disorder that causes bones to thin and weaken.
  • In addition, active pastimes, such as bicycling and gardening, also can improve health and life quality.

Home Modifications To Prevent Falls

Research shows that even simple safety modifications, such as those at home where most senior falls occur, can substantially cut the risk of falls and related injuries.

Bedroom

  • Place a lamp, telephone, or flashlight near your bed.
  • Sleep on a bed that is easy to get into and out of.
  • Replace satiny sheets and comforters with products made of non-slippery material such as wool or cotton.
  • Arrange clothes in your closet so that they are easy to reach.
  • Install a nightlight along the route between your bedroom and the bathroom.
  • Keep clutter off the bedroom floor.

Living Areas

  • Arrange furniture so you have a clear pathway between rooms.
  • Keep low-rise coffee tables, magazine racks, footrests, and plants out of the path of traffic.
  • Install easy-access light switches at room entrances so you will not have to walk into a dark room in order to turn on the light. Glow-in-the-dark switches also may be helpful.
  • Walk only in well-lighted rooms, stairs, and halls.
  • Do not store boxes near doorways or in hallways.
  • Remove newspapers and all clutter from pathways.
  • Keep electric, appliance and telephone cords out of walkways, but do not put cords under a rug.
  • Do not run extension cords across pathways; rearrange furniture.
  • Secure loose area rugs with double-faced tape, tacks, or slip-resistant backing.
  • Do not sit in a chair or on a sofa that is so low that it is difficult to stand up.
  • Repair loose wooden floorboards right away.
  • Remove door sills higher than a half inch.

Kitchen

  • Remove throw rugs.
  • Clean up immediately any liquids, grease, or food spilled on the floor.
  • Store food, dishes, and cooking equipment within easy reach.
  • Do not stand on chairs or boxes to reach upper cabinets.

Stairs

  • Keep stairs clear of packages, boxes, or clutter
  • Light switches should be at the top and bottom of the stairs. Or, consider installing motion-detector lights which turn on automatically when someone walks by.
  • Provide enough light to clearly see each stair and the top and bottom landings.
  • Keep flashlights nearby in case of a power outage.
  • Remove loose area rugs from the bottom or top of the stairs.
  • Replace patterned, dark, or deep-pile carpeting with a solid color, which will show the edges of steps more clearly.
  • Put non-slip treads on each bare-wood step.
  • Install handrails on both sides of the stairway. Each should be 30 inches above the stairs and extend the full length of the stairs.
  • Repair loose stairway carpeting or wooden boards immediately.

Bathroom

  • Place a slip-resistant rug adjacent to the bathtub for safe exit and entry.
  • Mount a liquid soap dispenser on the bathtub/shower wall.
  • Install grab bars on the bathroom walls.
  • Keep a nightlight in the bathroom.
  • Use a rubber mat or place nonskid adhesive textured strips inside the tub.
  • Replace glass shower enclosures with non-shattering material.
  • Stabilize yourself on the toilet by using either raised seat or a special toilet seat with armrests.
  • Use a sturdy, plastic seat in the bathtub if you cannot lower yourself to the floor of the tub or if you are unsteady.

After a Fall

It’s also important to realize that even with all these preventative measures, not all falls can be prevented. To help ensure your loved one’s safety, and provide you some peace of mind, consider getting them a medical alert device. This is a wearable button — usually in the form of a necklace, wristband, or belt clip. At the press of a button a person who falls can quicklyget connected with a trained operator who can notify emergency services, neighbors, or family members.

For post-fall recovery and rehabilitation, it may be necessary to hire a home caregiver. A professional homecare agency, while expensive, is often the easiest method for finding someone quickly. Once some normalcy resumes, Home Care Assist is a great resource for finding and hiring private-duty (freelance) caregivers. Our network of vetted and qualified in-home caregivers provides a cost-effective alternative to hiring an agency.  Activate a FREE 7-day pass to view available caregivers in your area, matched to your specific needs.