It’s common knowledge that older adults are more prone to falling than most other age groups, but did you know that senior falls are the leading cause of both non-fatal and fatal injuries? It is an alarming statistic from the National Council on Aging (NCOA), but hopefully may inspire older-adult caregivers and seniors to take preventative actions against falls. It’s never too early to start such preventing falls as anyone at any age can fall.
Here you’ll find what leads to senior falls, how to protect against falls, and how to help older adults reduce their fear of falling. According to the NCOA, the number of seniors who fear falls is increasing, and that fear leads to reduced activity and social group participation. Taking part in activities and being part of groups is important for seniors’ emotional and physical health.
Note: Each individual should follow the advice of their medical professionals or doctors and speak with them before making changes to diet, exercise, or supplements. This post is for informational use only and should not be considered medical advice.
Seniors and Falls: Assessing Risks
There are many reasons why falls occur, and often there is more than one factor at play when a person falls, per the CDC. Risks can include:
- Lower body weakness
- A vitamin D deficiency
- Foot, walking, and balance issues
- Use of medications like sedatives and antidepressants
- Vision problems
- Home hazards like steps, rugs, and clutter
- If you have fallen in the past year
- If you have a condition that affects balance like diabetes or heart disease
An especially commonplace for falls to occur is in the bathroom. In 2011, the CDC analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of Emergency Departments for 3,339 non-fatal bathroom injuries among people age 15 and above in the U.S. in 2008. Findings indicated that an estimated 234,094 non-fatal bathroom injuries were treated in 2008 in the U.S. and that injury rates increased with age.
The most frequent cause of injuries was falling and the most common type of injuries were contusions and abrasions. The head or neck was most commonly injured. Injuries commonly occurred in the tub or shower. The incidence of injury was far greater for those getting out of the tub or shower than for those getting into the tub or shower. Injury occurrence was also high for those in the act of showering or bathing.
With such findings, and safety recommendations from the HHS in mind, precautions that may help against falls in the bathroom could include:
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower
- Remove small rugs that may cause one to trip
- Keep rooms well-lit
- Install grab bars in and out of the shower/tub and by the toilet
- Make sure the bathroom floor is dry before walking on it
- Get rid of sharp edges in the bathtub and shower
- Put in shatterproof shower walls or sliding doors
How to Protect Against Falls
- Exercise to improve leg strength and balance. In general, get active.
- Go over the side effects of your medications with your doctor. They could cause dizziness or sleepiness.
- Get regular vision checks and update glasses and contacts when vision changes occur.
- Ask your doctor if there are any supplements you should be taking, such as Vitamin D or Calcium.
- Safeguard your home. This can include clearing clutter from the floor and installing railings.
- Get a bone density test if you are a woman over 65
- Make sure to get plenty of sleep so that you are alert.
- Only drink alcohol in moderation.
- Wear shoes with non-slip soles, even while at home. Avoid walking barefoot or wearing slippers/slipper socks instead of shoes.
- Stand up slowly after sitting down.
- After lying down, sit up slowly before standing up.
- When outside, watch out for black ice.
How to Help Those With a Fear of Falling
To help a senior who fears falling, or to help oneself if you fear falling, one of the most-highly recommended pieces of advice is exercise – and not just any exercise, but specifically a class that focuses on strength and balance. Yoga is a great one.
Fear can be a strong emotion that could be aided by care from others. For caregivers, listen to what a person has to say about their fear. After that, let the person know that you are there for them. If you are able, offer them help – either by safeguarding their space, showing them how to better tend to their space going forward, and or reminding them to move slowly.
Putting an End to Falling
We hope this article has helped you to understand why falls occur and how to help prevent them. We would love to hear about the safeguards that you have put in place for yourself and for the seniors in your life. Do you have a suggestion for safety against falls that we haven’t yet recommended? Please share!