Did you know that falls are the leading cause of injury, hospital visits, and death among the elderly? In fact, studies show that one of every four Americans over age 65 fall every year. While falling itself is concerning, seniors are also susceptible to related injuries from falling, including ubiquitous broken hips or head trauma. What causes elderly people to fall so much more than their younger counterparts?
Most common causes of falls in the elderly
Falls rarely happen due to a single reason. Any of the following events combined can lead to very serious, and possibly life-threatening, injury. If you are a senior or have one in your family who walked away from a fall without injury; the experience alone can leave one shaken and afraid of falling again. That fear causes some people to retreat from physical activity and become sedentary, which of course lead to further physical decline.
Decreased physical fitness
For many adults, aging means much less physical activity. And therein lies a problem, as not regularly engaging in exercise, of even the mild variety, leads to reduced muscle strength, loss of balance, decrease in bone mass, less coordination and reduced flexibility.
Debilitating eye conditions due to aging often make it difficult or even impossible to preemptively locate fall hazards including steps, door thresholds, or slick puddles. Even the fittest seniors are in danger of falling if they are unable see an obstacle on the ground.
Medication side effect
It is common for seniors to lean heavily on a host of medications to ease pain or otherwise make their days just a little easier. However, many medications’ side effects can increase a person’s risk of falling. Be aware of drowsiness, dizziness, and low blood pressure resulting from sedatives, anti-psychotics, anti-depressants or cardiovascular drugs. With more than 40 percent of seniors taking at least 5 drugs every week, the odds are good a fall is in store.
Environmental and behavioral hazards
Interestingly, the majority of falls are experienced in and around a senior’s home. Bad lighting clutter, loose carpet, slick floors and only bare bones safety equipment all can play a part in a tumble.
Don’t forget that fall risk is also greatly influenced by lifestyle and daily behavior, including types of activities, physical demand involved, and a person’s willingness to adapt for increased safety. Consider laundry, for example. It seems simple enough but a basket of wet clothes is heavy and it can be easy to overexert.
Chronic health conditions
Other reasons contributing to falls with the elderly are serious health conditions and illness. The former includes the likes of heart disease, low blood pressure, dementia, and muscle weakness. Illnesses of various types also commonly affect balance, fainting spells, or dizziness.
How to prevent falls
It can be easy to overlook but fall prevention awareness and strategy go a long way in mitigating falls and related injuries. Consider the following to help keep your aging loved ones safe:
Physical activity cannot be stressed enough in the role it plays in overall health and wellbeing with elderly people. Walking, water-based workouts, stretching, tai chi, and other gentle but steady movements help reduce fall risk by boosting strength, flexibility, and balance. Physical therapy is another proven approach to increasing strength and muscle tone.
Create a hazard-free home
Many homes are filled with various hazards that can cause falls. Alleviate the risk by removing boxes electrical cords, coffee tables, and plant stands from walkways; secure loose rugs; and store everyday items in accessible places.
Light up your life
Use night lights in bedrooms, baths, and hallways; turn on lights before going up or down stairs; keep flashlights at the ready in case of power loss.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.