“Agnes had a bad fall. She got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and tripped on the floor mat,” my mother explained. “Her daughter found her a long time later and an ambulance took her to the hospital. I don’t know when they will let her go home.” Mom and I were sitting at her kitchen table with a cup of tea. She shared this story about her friend as a rationale for why she didn’t want to leave the house with me. Since Agnes fell, my Mom, who is 82 years old and active, has been afraid that she, too, will fall, and that her independent life will be changed forever. What she doesn’t see is that her fear of falling has already changed her life.
The National Council on Aging notes that every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall, and every 19 minutes an older adult will die from a fall. “Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults,” states NCOA on the website NCOA.org. “In 2015, the total cost of fall injuries was $50 billion.”
Older adults who have experienced a fall often develop a fear of future falls which can cause them to curtail their activities. This eventually leads to added social isolation which is one of the main causes of geriatric depression. The risk of falls for older adults can be reduced by engaging in a fall risk assessment including physical, behavioral and environmental risks, and implementing practical lifestyle adjustments.
Fall Prevention Tips: Knowing the Top Fall Risk Factors
- Physical: Physical fitness, pre-existing conditions, vision and hearing loss and medications, can affect balance, physical abilities and cognitive health leading to a greater risk of falls.
- Behavioral: Lack of mobility devices or incorrectly using mobility devices, refusing assistance, unstable footwear, climbing or reaching for out of reach items, not using eyeglasses or hearing aids all can contribute to the risk of falls for older adults.
- Environmental: Cluttered living environment, stairs, frayed carpets, unsecured rugs, lack of lighting, lack of stair rails and bathroom safety features, and commonly used items out of reach are some of the environmental factors that increase and older adults risk of falls.
Steps for Preventing Falls in Seniors
Complete a Fall Risk Assessment
Engage your older adult in a conversation about their risk of falls and together complete the Risk Fall survey found in the National Council on Aging. The survey asks you to identify areas of risk pertaining to the older adult’s physical health, behavioral choices and environment to define practical steps to take to reduce the risk of falling.
Get a Physical
- Get a physical, identify the physical affects and challenges from any existing health conditions.
- Review prescriptions and over the counter medications with your doctor in relation to physical strength and balance issues.
- Get a vision and hearing test and update your eye wear and hearing aid prescriptions.
- Find out if a mobility device is warranted.
Address Behavioral Risks
- Wear glasses and hearing aids as prescribed.
- Use a mobility aid at all times.
- Refrain from reaching, bending over or climbing for items out of reach.
- Exercise to increase strength and balance.
- Consume high nutrient foods and reduce caffeine and sugar intake.
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol use and/or refrain from physical activity while under the influence.
- Wear sensible shoes.
Make Environmental Adjustments
- Ensure that floors, hallways and doorways are clear of clutter.
- Make sure there are wide passageways around furniture and coffee/end tables. Install stair rails on both sides of the stairway, and/or a chair lift system.
- Check and repair all carpets for bunching and edging, tape down or remove rugs and runners.
- Remove all appliance cords or extension cord tripping hazards.
- Install proper lighting including room lighting, nightlights and easy to reach bathroom lighting.
- In the bathroom install shower and tub bars, and use shower chair seats, and non-slip mats.
- Put often used items between eye and waist level.
Senior Fall Prevention at Green Hill:
September 22, 2018 is the annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day (FPAD) which raises awareness about how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults. Please join Green Hill on September 21st, at 2:15PM for “Aging with Confidence” by Director of Rehabilitation Richard Lai, PT, DPT. Register on line at www.green-hill/events.
To schedule your tour of our premier senior living community in West Orange, please contact us today.
For more information about preventing falls in seniors: