Many frail and elderly people are prone to falls. Their old age and health conditions make them especially vulnerable. Poor eyesight, dizziness and disorientation are common symptoms of diseases found in many seniors. Many hazards around the home and living spaces worsen the risk of accidents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three people aged 65 and above in the United States experience a fall each year. Even though falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among this age group, these accidents are often preventable. Prevention of falls is the key to lowering the death rate from this type of injury.
Experts recommend that an older adult to undergo a fall risk factor assessment by his or her health care provider. Both the American Geriatrics Society and the British Geriatric Society have released new guidelines that state that fall screening be routine for health care plans for older adults.
Seniors should fill out self-risk assessment forms. Then they should talk with their doctors about these risks. Health care providers will look for problems with their patients’ gait or balance and history of falls. They will then formulate interventions to minimize the risk.
Health experts recommend regular exercise for older adults. Exercise increases muscle tone and strengthen bones. By exercising, older adults can improve gait, balance and coordination, and thereby reduce their risk of falling.
Seniors can benefit from many exercises that are both safe and enjoyable. Swimming, running or walking are some of the most common choices for an exercise program. Many sports like golf or tennis are also great alternatives. Even moderate physical activity around the home such as gardening or yard work can result to better physical fitness. Others find other regimen such as yoga or Tai Chi as beneficial too.
Keeping their bodies fit, eating healthy meals and other lifestyle modifications are all helpful interventions to prevent falls.
About one-third of all falls suffered by seniors are due to environmental hazards at home. A substantial remodeling or refurbishing of the home of a senior is often hardly necessary. Simple measures to reduce or eliminate hazards in living spaces are enough to prevent falls.
Keeping objects off the floor, organizing messy wires, using non-slip rugs and shoes, installing ample lighting in hallways and stairs, and installing safety handlebars in bathrooms are just some of the ways to improve safety. It is also safe to secure ladders and footstools.
Families with seniors should rearrange furniture and shelves with the safety of seniors in mind. Keeping things tidy and eliminating tripping hazards around the home can significantly reduce the risk of accidents.
Many seniors suffer from poor vision that greatly raises the chance of tripping, sliding or falling. Experts also recommend that older adults undergo vision screening at least once every year. Doctors can spot eye conditions like cataract and glaucoma, and may recommend surgery or medications. They may also prescribe appropriate eyeglasses to address vision problems.
The elderly should always discuss with their health care providers about all medications that they are taking. These include prescription, over-the-counter, herbal drugs and food supplements. Older people often take multiple drugs to manage many chronic conditions. These medications often have side effects such as dizziness or weakness that can cause falling incidents. Sleeping medications and antidepressants are examples of these drugs.
Senior patients should work with their doctors about tweaking their medication dosage and schedule to minimize the risk of falling while retaining the benefits of these drugs.
Older people need not suffer from falls because of their health conditions or the effects of aging. There are many ways to reduce the risk of these injuries. A combination of these interventions, rather than a stand-alone approach, is the best strategy to decrease the overall risk of falls.
By having a fall risk assessment, vision screening, regular exercise and proper diet, home modification, and rational medication, older people can effectively prevent falls.