How to Prevent Falls in the Elderly

Hearing about a senior suffering a fall often conjures thoughts of a frail person, but even seniors you might consider to be strong and steady are at risk of falling. From tripping over an area rug to slipping on slick floors, the leading cause of serious injury and death in seniors over the age of 65 are falls. Just for you, we’ve put together some tips on how to prevent falls in the elderly.

According to the CDC, senior falls cost an annual $50 billion in medical costs including doctor visits, medication, physical rehab, and in-patient rehab facilities every year. That’s $12 billion paid by private insurance and a collective $38 billion coming from Medicare and Medicaid!

A Fear of Falling

It might come as a surprise that a major cause of senior falls is a fear of falling. This can lead to anxiety in social situations over possible fall risks such as tripping while getting up quickly to use the restroom. Avoiding outings and events creates fewer opportunities for exercise and mobility, which can increase the overall risk of falling.

It may not be falling itself your loved one is worried about. Rather, they may be anxious over what the fall could mean for them. Many seniors have a difficult time accepting that the aging process comes with the likelihood they may not be able to do everything they once did. Because people worry they may lose their independence, they may not ask for help when they need it.

Medical Reasons for Falling

Whether it’s medication or the inevitable physical effects of aging, there are a number of medical reasons a senior might fall.

  • Many seniors take multiple medications to manage their health. Some of these medications may have side effects that affect balance or cause unusual bouts of sleepiness that can lead to unsteadiness.
  • Seniors with a decline in eyesight and hearing are less likely to notice fall risks.
  • Slower reflexes can prevent some seniors from reacting quickly to small trips that turn into dangerous falls.
  • Confusion from Alzheimer’s and dementia can cause fogginess which may lead to falls.
  • Illnesses such as heart disease, foot problems, and circulatory problems can impact balance.
  • Typical physical changes that come with aging such as muscle weakness and reduced flexibility increase fall risk in seniors.
  • Senior women suffer falls at a disproportionate rate due to factors like osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Personal and Environmental Falling Risks

With the advancements in health and medical care, seniors are living alone in their own homes much later in life. While this increases morale and quality of life, it can also increase unforeseen fall risks. Things like throw rugs, cords, unsafe shoes, and oversized clothing can cause falls.

Preventing Senior Falls

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Yes, falls are inevitable as we get older, but you can minimize the number and severity of falls for your elderly parent or other family member with a little information and preparation.

Stay Active

Musculature declines as we age, so it’s more important than ever to stay active. Encourage your elderly loved ones to engage in activities they enjoy in a safe and reasonable manner. Social engagements and hobbies are a fun way to maintain morale, mobility, and prevent elderly falls.

Adding balance exercises such as weight shifts and the heel-to-toe walk to their regular exercise routine will help to improve balance, reducing the likelihood of falls.

It’s especially vital for seniors to consult a doctor before adding physical activity to their daily routine.

Home Safety Checklist

Your loved one can maintain their independence while also staying safe with the help of a home safety checklist.

  • Add stabilizers such as grab bars in the bathrooms and handrails on both sides of the stairs.
  • Offer to change lightbulbs and smoke alarm batteries to prevent your loved one from unnecessarily climbing ladders.
  • Ensure there are clear pathways to each room in the house.
  • Secure electrical cords so they stay free of walkways.
  • Remove throw rugs and other slip risks.
  • Make sure the home has adequate lighting.

Talk to the Doctor

It can be difficult to deal with the effects of aging, but accepting them can actually help your loved one stay healthier and more independent for much longer.

Regular checkups are necessary to stay on top of health and gain early awareness about eyesight and hearing issues.

Be honest with the doctor about any:

  • Recent falls
  • Dizziness
  • Unsteadiness
  • Fogginess or confusion
  • Foot problems
  • Unexplained sleepiness
  • Walking issues

Take it Slow

We’ve all experienced dizziness when we stand suddenly from a seat at one time or another. The elderly are more prone to experience this sensation, which increases risk for falls. Taking it slow will give blood pressure time to adjust, easing the dizziness.

Reducing falls all comes down to preparation. For deeper insights and additional tips to keep your elderly loved one fall-free, listen to this interview with our very own Steve Parrott featured on Columbia’s 103.5 WVOC.

About RetireEase

As the premier senior caregiver service in Columbia, SC, our caregivers are passionate about integrated care to maintain a vibrant quality of life. We love helping older people continue to live full, active lives. You can learn more about our services here.

If you’re looking for high-quality, personalized senior home care in the greater Columbia, SC area, we’d love to talk. You can contact us here.