As a senior over the age of 65, a fall can mean serious injury, which sometimes lasts for the rest of the individual’s life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falling can cause head injury and hip fractures that prevent normal mobility, and can even lead to early death. In 2013, 734,000 seniors were hospitalized due to falls, which are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among the elderly.
Considering this, it is crucial to minimize the chances of falls occurring. Even if it does happen, it is possible to lessen the severity of resulting injury with the right preventative steps. Whether you are a caregiver responsible for a senior parent, relative, or patient, or a senior yourself, it is important to understand why falls usually occur and how to prevent falls at home.
First and foremost, be informed. If you are a senior, read up on why falls occur and how you can prevent them. If you are in a caregiver role, have a talk with your charge about fall facts, their detrimental effects, and how to prevent them. Keep an open line of communications with physicians too, and inform them if a fall occurs.
Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent falling. It increases balance, keeps leg muscles strong, improves weight-bearing abilities, and supports skeletal health. The best forms of exercise for seniors involve weight, so while walking is helpful, it is important to rotate in some form of strength training, such as weight-lifting, yoga, tai chi, or others.
Keep Bones Strong
Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to prevent a fall, which is why having strong bones that resist fracturing and shattering is a must. Ensure plenty of vitamin D and calcium in the diet, and get screened for osteoporosis. If it proves a problem, treat it.
Although many seniors like bifocals or trifocals so they don’t have to take their glasses off, these can unfortunately contribute to problems with depth perception. It may help to have a pair of single vision distance lenses for moving around outside, says the CDC. Get glasses checked every year to ensure prescriptions remain accurate.
Fall-Proof the Home
Keep spaces clean and uncluttered, especially the floor. Minimizing loose papers, clothes, linens, small pieces of furniture and other objects provides a safer path for the senior to navigate. Providing additional means of support is also helpful. Installing bars next to the toilet, inside and outside the shower, next to the bed and along both sides of the stairs can significantly minimize the problem. Increasing the amount of light, whether by putting in more light fixtures or opening drapes or both, can also help.
Some medications can make people feel dizzy, woozy, disoriented or wobbly. If a medication is making it hard for you or your charge to stand and move safely, check with a physician about alternatives. You may be able to find a different prescription that accomplishes the same aim without compromising balance or mobility.
Of course, no matter how careful you are as a caregiver or as a senior, it is always possible for an accident to occur. If it does, however, you’ll want to know you did everything you could to prevent it and to minimize the associated risks. Follow the above steps faithfully, and you will have done all you could.