Why is Falling Serious for Seniors?Did you know that older adults often fear falling, even if they haven’t fallen in the past? This makes sense, because falling, even from something as simple as tripping on a rug or slipping on a wet floor can result in broken bones. For an older person, a broken bone is very serious, so for seniors, fall prevention is crucial. A fall can sometimes be the start of serious health problems or lead to long-term disability. More than one in four people over age 65 fall each year, and falling causes 90 percent of hip fractures. The risk of falling and breaking a bone increases with age, but there are proactive measures you can take to help your older loved ones reduce their risk of falling and increase their longevity. The first step is to identify fall risk factors with your loved ones, in order to take precautionary measures.
Five Top Causes of FallsBy knowing the top causes of falls in elderly people, you can take steps to protect your older loved ones.
1. Impaired VisionOlder people often have vision problems like cataracts and glaucoma, which alter depth perception and visual acuity as well as limit their peripheral vision, making them more susceptible to glare. These issues can make it more difficult to navigate the home safely and anticipate or notice hazards in time to prevent a fall. Even wearing bifocal or varifocal lenses can affect depth perception and make it hard to go down stairs.
2. Home HazardsIt is easy to overlook fall hazards in the home, but being proactive about removing them can greatly reduce the risk of falls. Home hazards include:
- Steps or stairways that are poorly lit or have loose/unsecure handrails or, worse, no handrails
- Poorly lit hallways and walkways
- Clutter blocking pathways
- Pets that may get underfoot
- Loose wires, rugs, or other objects that can cause tripping
- Bathroom or kitchen tile without non-slip tread
- Showers and bathtubs without non-slip basins, or missing grab bars
- Important items not kept within easy reaching distance
3. MedicationCertain medications can cause side effects like dizziness, light-headedness, unsteadiness, drowsiness, blurred or double vision, and reduced mental alertness. Some medications can affect balance and cause a drop in blood pressure while standing. Taking four or more medicines, often referred to as polypharmacy, can increase the risk of falling, especially with those that are considered high risk medications. Opiates, diuretics, anti-depressants, sedatives, blood pressure medication and anticonvulsants are some examples of high-risk medications that pose a higher risk for falls among the elderly. It is important to talk to your doctor and be aware of any potential side effects.
4. Weakness and Poor BalanceAs people age, they lose muscle mass. This can cause problems with balance and gait. To reduce muscle loss, older people should remain active and try balance and strength training exercises like yoga, Pilates and tai chi.
5. Chronic ConditionsCertain conditions, like Parkinson’s, hearing problems, diabetes, heart disease or issues with the thyroid, nerves, blood vessels or feet, can increase fall risk factors. Conditions like diabetes can cause neuropathy, which involves numbness, tingling, weakness, or burning in the feet, and this can make it difficult to walk without stumbling. Heart disease can also make people unsteady on their feet. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that causes motor symptom that include stiffness, tremor, impaired balance, shuffling gait, and changes to the center of gravity. Incontinence, which causes people to rush to the bathroom, can also increase the risk of falling.
Preparing Your Home for Fall Prevention: How to Prevent FallsFall prevention at home for seniors is important for keeping your loved ones safe. Here are 10 tips to prevent falls at home.
- Check stairs and steps to make sure none are broken or uneven and all have sturdy handrails on either side. Install anti-slip stair treads for slippery hardwood stairs.
- Make sure there is adequate lighting, especially around entryways, in hallways and at the top and bottom of stairs.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom, by the toilet and in showers and tubs.
- Remove any throw rugs to prevent them from tripping.
- Keep pathways and stairways free from clutter.
- Consider adding strips of bright or contrasting colors in places you have trouble seeing, like the stairs or grab bars, handrails or any uneven surfaces.
- Keep commonly used items within easy reach to avoid the use of step stools and chairs.
- Install a bed rail to provide support getting in and out of bed.
- Clean spills immediately to reduce the risk of slipping.
- Fall-proof your bathroom with non-slip rubber grips in the shower or tub, a shower chair, hand-held shower head or even a walk-in bathtub.
The Warning Signs and Risk Factors of FallingThe more risk factors a person has, the greater the risk of falling. Pay attention to your older loved ones, looking for signs of the following risk factors,, and consider a risk assessment if you are concerned about any of the following:
- Muscle weakness
- Worsening eyesight
- Declining hearing
- Uneven gait or poor balance
- Pain in hips, knees, ankles or feet, including injuries or stiffness
- Dependence on supports for walking, getting up or sitting down
- Chronic physical ailments, including hypertension, diabetes, arthritis incontinence, or Parkinson’s
- Cognitive impairment or decline
- New prescription medications with side effects that can increase the risk of falling
- Overuse of alcohol or abuse of narcotics
- Blackouts or fainting
- Changes in sleeping habits
High Quality Care for Older Adults
BrightStar Care® takes a comprehensive approach to fall prevention, pairing our unmatched clinical expertise with educational resources to help and empower families. Our agencies can perform a home safety evaluation, assessing possible risks and making recommendations regarding accessibility modifications. Then, at every reassessment, an RN will do a further safety check, educating the client and family on fall risks and ways to reduce them.
Additionally, by contracting for home care with us, you will be ensuring that someone ist there to help with things that could be hazardous, like reaching high shelves, bathing, or climbing stairs. In some cases, physical therapy may be helpful in building strength to prevent falls. When you partner with BrightStar, you gain the assistance of a caring, compassionate team, dedicated to keeping your loved one safe and healthy.
Find a BrightStar Care® Location Near You
Looking for in-home care services or assisted living for your loved one or a reliable medical staffing partner for your organization? Our experienced local care team members are ready to help. Find a location near you, contact us online, or call 866.618.7827 to speak with a local care expert and learn more about how BrightStar Care offers A Higher Standard®.