Falls are the leading cause of hospital admissions, death, and severe injuries among seniors. According to statistics by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), one out of every four Americans aged 65 and above falls every year.
Falling among the elderly can prove to be deadly even though it doesn’t result in death. The resulting fall-related injuries like hip fractures or head traumas will still affect their quality of life. Older people are more likely to get osteoporosis (fractures) or even break their bones during a fall because their bones are fragile due to their age.
Even if they go for surgeries to treat any fall-related injuries, it will take them more time to recover than younger people. Some even never recover from a fall and may end up needing assisted living in senior facilities such as https://vivanteliving.com/.
Understanding why the elderly are at risk may help caregivers take suitable precautions to keep their loved ones from falling.
What are the factors that may cause an older adult to fall?
1. Impaired vision
Some seniors, when they get older, they experience loss of vision. Some age-related diseases may also cause loss of vision and thus make it difficult for them to detect fall hazards such as thresholds, puddles, or steps. Even if the elderly are in top physical condition, if they don’t see obstacles on their way as they walk can lead to nasty falls.
Some are stubborn and refuse to wear the doctor's prescribed glasses or even tell the doctor that their vision is failing. Doing so may also endanger your life, and if you can’t see what’s happening at ground level can lead to a deadly fall.
2. A decline in physical fitness
As we grow older, we become less and less active, which worsens the physical effects of aging. Failure to engage your body in physical activities regularly often results in decreased bone mass, reduced muscle strength, reduced flexibility, and loss of balance and coordination.
Poor physical health may increase an elderly’s initial risk of falling and minimizes their ability to respond and recover from tripping and slipping.
Numerous medications can increase the elderly’s risk of falling. Some of these medications have side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, and low blood pressure, contributing to accidents such as falling.
Seniors take an average of five different drugs per week this is according to Merck Manual. Those taking multiple medications are even at higher risk of medical interactions and suffering from their side effects. Antipsychotics, sedatives, opioids, anti-depressants, and some cardiovascular drugs are usually the culprits with such side effects. You should also remember that some supplements and over-the-counter medications may also have such side effects.
4. Surgical procedures
Some surgeries like hip replacements can leave some seniors feeling weak in pain and discomfort, making them less mobile than before the surgery. Some become a temporary problem, and in some cases, it can be an ongoing problem for the elderly.
5. Chronic diseases
Some health conditions such as Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson’s, or arthritis may cause balance disorders, poor grip strength, and cognitive impairment. When an older adult is suffering from these conditions, they also have nerve damage which may cause numbness in the feet, making it difficult for a senior to sense their surroundings and may cause accidents too.
6. Behavioral hazards
Your unique lifestyle and behaviors usually influence a person's risk of falling. This includes the activities they engage in, the level of physical energy the activities require, and their willingness and ability to adapt to a particular routine for enhanced safety.
For example, doing laundry a few times a week is normal for people, but if it’s a senior doing laundry and he has to use a great deal of exertion, especially when they have to carry a heavy load of clothes can be a risky venture. It is also riskier if they have to navigate a long-distance and even going up or down the stairs, then they put themselves at even greater risk of toppling over.
When they fail to modify their behaviors to account for the new challenges they are experiencing at doing common things is also a contributing factor to most seniors falling in their homes.
7. Environmental hazards
The majority of fall accidents in seniors occur in or around their homes. The environmental factors include poor lighting, loose carpets, slick floors, clutter, or areas where need some repair. When they lack safety in and around their homes, the risk of falling increases.
What are some things you can do to decrease the risk of an elderly in your care from falling?
While you may not always be able to stop a senior in your care from falling but there are some changes you can do around their home to ensure you reduce the risk of falling. Start with small things like the bathroom and wet surfaces. You can install non-slip mats around the bathroom and areas where there is likely to be water spillage.
Remember also to offer better lighting so that they can be able to see around them. If you notice that your loved one's vision is failing, you can also get it checked and see if they can get glasses or contact lenses to help with that.
If the senior has stairs in their home, you can either get a stairlift, tighten the handrails and ensure that it has bars on both sides to ensure they have adequate support while they are on the stairs. Remove excess furniture from their home to give them room to move around their home freely.
Another option is to get them a walker, cane, or wheelchair to move around. As with any mobility aids, ensure that they are well fitted and easy to use. If they use a wheelchair, make sure it fits their doorway and can easily be folded to fit a car's trunk.
Ensure to check their footwear and check if they fit well and have a non-slip sole. Also, keep seniors active doing physical activities such as walking and stretching to reduce the risk of falling.