Did you know that falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people over the age of 65? In fact, each year 1 in 4 adults 65 and older suffer a fall, and over 800,000 of those people are hospitalized, according to the CDC.
A fall can result in serious injuries. And even falls without a major injury can cause an older adult to feel fearful or depressed, making it difficult for them to lead an active lifestyle. If you have an aging parent, grandparent or neighbor in your life, helping them minimize their risk of a fall is an important way to help them stay safe and independent in their home for as long as possible.
The first step in fall prevention for older adults is understanding the main causes of falls and ways to prevent them. Falls don’t have to be an inevitable part of aging. Instead, seniors and their loved ones can start employing preventive measures now to reduce the likelihood of a serious injury.
Common Causes of FallsMany factors can contribute to a fall. It is common for older adults to have one or more of the following risk factors.
- Loss of balance. With age comes a loss of coordination, making it easier to lose balance and fall.
- Vision problems. As your eyesight worsens with age, it becomes easier to miss a step or stumble over furniture in the home.
- Medications. Certain medications taken by seniors can cause weakness or dizziness that can cause one to fall.
- Chronic health conditions. Diabetes, stroke or arthritis often result in lost function, inactivity, pain or multiple medications, which increase the probability for a fall.
- Environmental hazards. Living spaces often need modified over time to help seniors more effectively and safely navigate their home. Stairs without railings, cluttered floor plans, dimly lit rooms and hard-to-reach dishes are just a few scenarios that lead to injuries in the home.
Ways to Prevent FallingMost falls happen in the home, but most can be prevented with proper care and attention. To minimize risk for falls, seniors can:
- Stay fit and active. As you get older, try to maintain good physical health and incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Gentle activities, like walking or swimming, help promote healthy aging by improving balance, coordination, flexibility and strength in your joints and muscles.
- Visit to your doctor. Talk to your doctor about your current health. For instance, some medications can cause side effects like drowsiness or dizziness that lead to falls. Similarly, if you are deficient in certain vitamins, your doctor can recommend supplements that can help you feel your best.
- Safeguard your home. Ask a loved one to help scan your home for potential fall hazards. To reduce falls in the home:
- Clear your home of clutter or things that are easy to trip over such as cords, shoes, and papers. Rearrange furniture to allow for a more spacious layout through the house.
- Repair tripping hazards such as loose carpet or wood floorboards.
Install handrails and grab bars to help with mobility. These safety devices will make it much safer to get up and down stairs, on and off the toilet and in and out of the bathtub.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathroom, kitchen and other areas of the home where it can become slippery when wet.
- Replace lightbulbs throughout the home to make it easier to navigate, especially if you have vision problems.
- Use an emergency response system. If a fall does occur, this device allows older adults to press a button on a special bracelet or necklace, alerting 911 that there is an emergency.
Seniors living on their own may be at a higher risk for fall-related injuries, but they can take steps now to significantly minimize the likelihood of a fall in their home. Talk to aging loved ones in your life about ways you can help make their living space safer so that they can live independently and with peace of mind for as long as possible.