January 19, 2015
Reducing the risk of falls and accidents is one important way to help minimize the risk of senior hospitalization.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of three older adults over age 65 falls each year, but less than half will bring their accident to the attention of a healthcare provider. The Public Health Agency of Canada says that falls remain the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations among Canadian seniors and contributed to approximately 85% of hospitalizations, according to a 2011 study.
“A fall is a warning sign as it is considered a symptom of another issue,” said Dr. Carolyn Clevenger of Emory University, president-elect of the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA).
As people age they experience natural aging affects, such as stiff joints, poor eyesight, and decreased muscle strength along with poor balance. Natural aging along with chronic conditions, such as cataracts, arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, can increase their risk of falling.
Think about your senior’s environment and consider these tips:
- Remove clutter from pathways.
- Arrange furniture to make rooms easy to navigate.
- Remove or secure throw rugs.
- Encourage use of assistive devices to retrieve items from high shelves.
- Suggest use of a cane when walking on uneven surfaces.
- Encourage seniors to wear shoes with non-slip soles.
- Ask seniors to avoid walking in stocking feet on wood floors.
- Replace shoe laces that tie with elastic ones that won’t come untied and present a tripping hazard.
- Organize the house so items used most frequently are at waist level, minimizing the need to bend or climb.
- Apply high-contrast colored tape to top and bottom of stairs and thresholds.
- Make sure the home and stairways are well lit.
- Use a night light and/or leave a light on in the bathroom to reduce the risk of falls in the dark.
- Allow enough space to walk around furniture.
- Encourage seniors to use handrails.
- Suggest the senior keep one hand free when walking to allow him or her to grab onto a sturdy object to stop a fall.
- Minimize distractions and help the senior focus while walking.
- Allow plenty of time for activities and tasks.
One potential problem for older adults is inactivity. Lack of exercise can lead to weak legs and this increases the chances of falling.
According to the CDC, older adults can stay independent and reduce their chances of falling if they:
- Exercise regularly. It is important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance, and that they get more challenging over time. Tai Chi programs are especially good.
- Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medicines—both prescription and over-the-counter—to identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
- Have their eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update their eyeglasses to maximize their vision. Consider getting a pair with single vision distance lenses for some activities such as walking outside.
- Make their homes safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding railings on both sides of stairways, and improving the lighting in their homes.
To help assess the potential for falls, check out the videos titled Prevent Senior Falls: Assessment and Balance Exercises, which will help caregivers gauge an older adult’s potential risk for falls and provide examples of exercises that could help to build balance.
Get helpful tips and articles like these delivered to your email.