How to Prevent Falls for the Elderly
It's not possible to eliminate the risk of falls, but it is possible to reduce it. Learn the common causes of senior falls and how to prevent them.
As you age, the likelihood of falling increases. This is due to a number of factors, including a loss of coordination and strength, specific health conditions, and even some medications. Falls are the leading cause of injury for seniors and can result in cuts, bruises, fractures, head and brain injuries, and even death. No matter the severity of a fall, it is almost always a traumatic and unsettling experience.
Studies show that one in three seniors will fall in any given year, and one in five falls results in injury. The good news is that while it’s impossible to guarantee you’ll never take a spill, there are a number of solid and proven methods that can help prevent these incidents. We’re going to look at some of the most common causes of falls for the elderly, some measures you can take to reduce the risk of falls, overall fall prevention strategies, and steps professionals take to assist with fall prevention.
Causes of Falls in Elderly
Completely removing the risk of a fall as a senior is not plausible, however, understanding why falls occur is the first step toward making proactive changes.
- Common causes of falls include:
- Balance and coordination challenges.
- Bone and muscle weakness.
- A lack of flexibility.
- Vision challenges.
- Symptoms of illness, disease, and/or underlying conditions.
- Medication side effects.
There are also many environmental hazards within a person’s home that can cause falls. While certain symptoms or side effects may not be able to be changed, home hazards can be removed and lifestyle changes can be made.
How to Prevent Falls at Home for Elderly
Let’s identify the steps you can take to prevent falls in and around the house, and as you go about your daily activities:
Maintain Your Health
Make an appointment with your health care provider to assess your risk of falling and to go over some fall prevention strategies. Topics you might want to bring up include your medications, any previous falls you’ve taken and your current health condition.
Also, make sure you’re getting the right vitamins and drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated throughout the day.
Maintain a Physically Active Schedule
The more you move about in a safe manner, the more comfortable you are with physical activity, and the less likely you are to fall. If you’re up for it, consider regular exercises such as water aerobics or Pilates. Even regular walks are great for keeping you active. Explore suitable outdoor activities for the elderly in our article “Benefits of Outdoor Activities for the Elderly”.
Use Assistive Devices
Even if you don’t have the need to use a cane or a walker all the time, it’s a smart idea to have such devices handy on days when you could use a little assistance.
Consider adding the following to your home:
- Handrails on both sides of stairwells.
- Grab bars for the shower or tub.
- A raised toilet seat with one or two armrests.
- Non-slip treads for wooden steps.
- A hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down.
Wear the Right Glasses
Corrective lenses such as bifocals and progressive lenses, aka “cheaters,” can play tricks on depth perception. When you’re moving about, single-vision glasses are best.
Wear the Correct Footwear
Until you’re ready for bed, it’s a good idea to wear shoes, even if you’re just walking around the house, as wearing just socks can lead to slipping and falling. If you love to wear socks around the house or if shoes are sometimes uncomfortable due to swelling in the feet, consider purchasing socks that have grips on the bottom.
Avoid Wearing Loose Clothing
You want to be as comfortable as possible, but ensuring your clothing doesn’t bunch up or drag on the ground is important for safety; clothing that is too loose can lead to falls.
Shine a Light on the Problem
We’ve all visited friends who seem to be living “in the dark,” literally! Inadequate lighting is a major hazard that can lead to falls. If you can’t see what’s in front of you, well, you can “see” the problem. Install brighter light bulbs when needed, especially around stairways, and make sure you have nightlights in bedrooms and bathrooms.
How to Improve Safety in and around the Home
There are many proactive steps you can easily take to make a home safer for a senior:
- Repair or remove tripping hazards, including slippery throw rugs, loose carpet, and floorboards that are sticking up.
- Clean up clutter such as stacks of old newspapers and magazines.
- Consider living on one level when possible. Stairs present one of the most significant falling hazards.
- Keep walkways clear of telephone cords, electrical cords, boxes and other clutter.
- Store everyday kitchen items such as dishes, silverware, pots and pans and cleaning materials within easy reach.
- Stock the lower kitchen cabinets and leave the higher cabinets for items you rarely or never use, and thus don’t need to access.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower.
- Store flashlights in easy to reach places.
- Walk on grass if your sidewalk looks slick or unsafe.
- Keep the backyard free of clutter, including tools.
- Make sure your outdoor lighting is satisfactory.
- Arrange for repairs of uneven or cracked surfaces on sidewalks, patios and porches.
Easy Does It
In some ways, this might be the most important tip of all. We all know someone who has fallen and admits they were in too big of a hurry to retrieve something from the garage or reach for a cabinet or answer the doorbell or just to go from the living room to the bedroom. Many falls can be prevented simply by taking a deep breath, telling yourself to take it easy and proceeding with caution.
How to Prevent Falls in Nursing Homes
When it comes to preventing falls, professional senior living providers use many of the same strategies mentioned above that can be used in homes.
Many people think of “nursing homes” as the only option for seniors who aren’t able to or don’t want to live at home, however, there are many senior living options available that provide support and care, including Assisted Living Communities.
The following are additional steps Assisted Living Communities often take to help prevent falls:
- Comprehensive medication management.
- Group activities like yoga to improve balance.
- Specialized “low” beds and assistive baths and toilets.
Fall Prevention Strategies in Hospitals
Hospitals also incorporate many similar features as senior living communities in order to prevent falls. They may also include facility wide support measures, such as:
- Handrails along corridors, in all bathrooms, and in all patient rooms.
- Bedside call monitoring.
- Personalized mobility planning.
- Extra-grip socks and footies.
Surround Yourself with Others
There’s no “good” time to fall, but experiencing a fall is always worse and more dangerous when you’re on your own. This is one of the many reasons why it’s important for you to maintain a dependable circle of family, friends, associates, neighbors, caregivers, and others. You can learn more about the importance of socializing and asking for help when you need it in our next article, “The Impact of Isolation on the Elderly.”
Find Senior Care Near You
If you join a senior living community, you’ll have the benefit of being surrounded by senior living professionals and other older adults with similar experiences. Referah Family Connection Agents work alongside families to find the perfect fit for their loved one. From supportive strategies to reduce falls to finding the best type of care for an illness, there are thousands of communities that can provide everything you need for a great quality of life. Talk with us today and find a local community near you!