Falls can happen to anyone at any age; however, there are certain population groups among whom the risk of falls is higher, and one such group is the elderly. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, people aged 65 and over are more likely to be hospitalised due to a fall than other life-stages.
Falls are common in older adults, yet they are also often preventable. Preventive strategies and safer environments must be implemented. Preventing falls is very important because a high percentage of falls result in serious injury to older people, and the implications and complications of a minor fall can be severe.
Falls can of course have physical consequences in the form of moderate to severe injuries. They can also, however, have serious psychosocial consequences, leading to feeling insecure and vulnerable to falling again, which in the long term can lead to a restriction of activities that affects their independence and a deterioration in their quality of life.
Risk Factors for Falls in the Elderly
In order to prevent a fall, it is necessary to recognise the possible causes or risk factors. While a combination of risk factors and causes is responsible for most falls, here are some of the most common risk factors in older adults:
- Muscle weakness and slower reflexes
- Lack of balance
- Postural hypotension
- Foot problems or insecure footwear
- Lack of clear vision, use of glasses with an incorrect prescription or other eye problems such as cataracts or glaucoma.
- Incontinence that causes frequent visits to the toilet, especially at night
- Side effects of certain medications that cause dizziness or confusion.
- Having had a previous fall leading to more insecurity and fear of moving around
- Having chronic conditions that involve cognitive impairment, as they may act more impulsively, not evaluating risks and their own abilities.
- Chronic pain, which can contribute to less mobility and balance
Knowing your loved one’s risk factors will allow you to implement the right measures to prevent future falls. The following are keys to preventing and reducing the risk of falls, along with some useful tips for adapting the home to make it safer.
Prevent and Reduce the Risk of Falls
One of the most important factors in preventing falls is mitigating the physical detriments that the elderly face. The following activities are preventive measures that can help to minimise the risk of falls in older adults before they occur:
Regular physical exercise
Physical exercise, adapted to each person’s abilities, helps to strengthen muscles, improve balance, and will make a person feel more confident and walk more steadily.
Get their eyes checked
A regular eye check-up is necessary to ensure that vision is as correct as possible, that glasses are correctly adjusted and that there are no other eye problems, such as cataracts or glaucoma.
Wear comfortable shoes
Slip-resistant, firm, comfortable shoes are key to preventing falls. You can talk to the doctor about what footwear is best for your loved one, and even see a foot specialist to check if insoles are needed, or if any foot conditions need to be assessed.
Check medication and talk to the doctor
If your loved one has had a fall or you fear they may have a fall, talk to their doctor for advice and possible solutions. Some medications can affect coordination or balance or cause dizziness, confusion, or drowsiness, which can increase the risk of falls, so if any of these symptoms are present, the doctor should review the medication and adjust it to avoid these symptoms if possible.
Preventing Falls at Home: Useful Tips
There’s no place like home. In fact, according to our survey, 68% of Australians prefer to age in their homes. As a person ages, their home should be adapted to make it safe and free from fall hazards.
For the elderly, fall prevention means injury prevention. You can make their home safe from falls with just a few basic changes:
Clean up clutter
The easiest method for preventing falls is to keep your home tidy. Remove all clutter, especially from hallways and staircases.
Repair or remove tripping hazards
Examine all rooms and hallways for items such as loose rugs, slippery carpets, or wooden planks that lift up. If you find such items in your home, repair or replace them to prevent falls.
Install grab bars and handrails
Grab bars and handrails are very useful for getting up and down stairs, sitting and standing on the toilet, and getting in and out of the shower without falling. Installation is generally easy, and they prevent accidents and falls.
Avoid wearing loose clothing
Tight clothing is not recommended because it causes overheating, restricts blood flow, and is uncomfortable. Loose-fitting clothing, on the other hand, may appear more comfortable. However, loose clothing can get caught on windows, doors, or furniture and can cause trips and falls.
Ensure that the home is well-lit
Inadequate lighting is a significant hazard for older people. You can take simple measures, such as placing brighter bulbs in stairwells and hallways or adding night lights in bedrooms and bathrooms to help them find their way around at night. You can also install motion sensor lights that light up if the person walks nearby.
Make sure floors are slip-resistant
Some places at home, such as bathrooms, kitchens or stairs, are very dangerous when they are wet or have a slippery surface. To prevent falls on slippery surfaces, you can place anti-slip mats or apply a non-slip coating.
Use assistive devices
If the person needs help to feel stable when walking, a cane or walker can be very useful in everyday life.
The CareSide is Here to Help
Falls are a real danger for older people and taking into account the serious consequences of a simple fall, precaution is vital. One of the most effective measures to prevent falls is being with the person and keeping them company, as many falls happen when they are alone. At The CareSide, we assist and care for the elderly during the day, at night, or 24 hours a day. We adapt to each person’s needs and work with them to offer companionship, medical assistance, and much more. If you want to know how we can help you, contact us.