Understanding Fall Risks & Preventions

As a licensed Senior Home Care service provider, we start many new cases due to falls.  We also understand how important it is to our senior population to remain in their homes as long as possible.  It’s commonly known that as we get older, our chances of falling increase significantly.  As a matter of fact, senior citizens 65 years and older have a 25% greater chance of falling than their younger peers.  Once they've experienced one fall, that percentage then doubles to a staggering 50% chance of having subsequent falls.  On average, over 3 million older people are treated in the emergency room, on an annual basis, for falls.  One in 5 falls result in a broken bone or head injury, making it the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).   Falls account for 95% of fractured hips, making it the most common injury.  These statistics are especially alarming because our elderly loved ones often never fully recover from the injuries that can occur from a fall.  In fact, falls are noted as a leading cause in the loss of independence and ability.

While this information can be startling, the fear of falling shouldn’t stop you from living, nor should it rule your life.  In fact, reducing your activity level, or limiting your mobility, because you’re fearful of falling is actually counterproductive.  Though you cannot completely safeguard yourself or your loved one from experiencing a fall, there are proper measures you can take to greatly reduce your risk.  Here are 4 simple tips you can follow for fall prevention:

Complete a Medical Evaluation

The best place to start is with a trusted medical professional who is up to speed on your personal history.  Express your concerns, or any changes that have taken place, that may contribute to increasing your fall risk.  Have your doctor complete a full well check and physical.  Discuss any medications you are on, their potential side effects, and how your body responds to them.  Are any of your medications causing you to feel dizzy?  Overly sleepy?  Disoriented?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you may want to reconsider or modify your plan of care, with your physician’s guidance.

If you’ve had a recent fall, discuss it in great length and detail with your doctor.  How did you feel leading up to the fall?  Did you experience any lightheadedness?  Have you had any tingling or numbness in your legs or feet?  Do you feel weak or unable to fully control the lower half of your body?  Also, explain to your medical professional how and where the fall occurred, as well as any injuries you sustained from the fall, even if they’re minor.  Have your doctor observe and evaluate your overall strength and balance to determine if you’re at risk for falling again.  Express any fears and concerns you may have going forward.

Lastly, visit your ophthalmologist regularly to have your eyes checked.  At a minimum, this should be done annually, to make sure there are no significant changes to your vision that would require updated glasses or contact lenses.

Stay Active 

Staying active through daily exercise is one of the best things you can do to reduce the risk of falling.  An active senior lifestyle provides countless physical benefits that improve your overall strength, balance, flexibility, endurance, and gait.  Something as simple, and accessible, as a daily walk can set you up for success.  If you want to add more variety into your activity, you can explore a number of fitness classes, such as water aerobics, Zumba, yoga, circuit training, and more.  Sports such as swimming, golf, dancing, and pickleball are also wonderful opportunities to help you stay active and physically fit.

If you find independent exercise intimidating, you can discuss alternative options with your healthcare provider.  They may recommend assistance through physical therapy or other resources.

Step into Sensible Shoes

Gone are the days of high heels, flip flops, slides, and slippery soles.  Slip into something more comfortable that provides sturdy support and has a non-skid sole.  Wearing proper shoes will help keep you safe and reduce the risk of slipping or tripping over your own two feet!

Safeguard your Home

Your home should be your sanctuary, or your safe haven, where you can easily navigate from room to room without the added risks of falling.  Begin by making sure that your home is free of unnecessary clutter, especially on the floors.  Keep your high traffic areas clear and accessible by carefully selecting furniture placement and decor.  Rugs, if used, should be properly secured, or eliminated all together.  Make sure there’s no loose flooring or uneven areas that could prove to be hazardous.  All of your essentials, such as toiletries, dishes, clothes, etc. should be stored in a location that is easy to reach.

Keep your home well lit so you can easily see where you are going.  Be sure to turn on lights before entering a room or using a staircase.  Furthermore, keep flashlights in an easy to find area so they are readily available in the event of a power outage.

Install assistive devices throughout your home, as needed.  Things such as an elevated toilet seat and a grab bar beside the commode will help you use the restroom with greater ease.  You can also rely on a shower seat and shower rail to reduce the risk of slipping in the shower.  Additionally, a walking aide, such as a cane or walker, can increase your independence while reducing your fall risk.  If these are devices that you regularly use, be sure to position them in a location where they are easily accessible, such as beside your bed, by the couch, or in other areas of your home.

Falls cannot be completely avoided, and the risk is always there, but taking these measures to reduce your chances of falling will help bring peace of mind to you and your loved ones.  Keep an open dialogue surrounding the concerns and fears associated with falls and regularly reevaluate the situation and surroundings to best protect your elderly.