Falls are no joke, and if your father recently took a tumble, you are right to be concerned. The National Council on Aging reports that the leading cause of injuries in people over 65 are falls, including broken bones, hip fractures, and head injuries. Fall prevention for seniors should be on everyone’s radar, and we do have helpful suggestions to keep your loved one safer.
Understanding the Risks
It should come as no surprise that seniors tend to be less steady on their feet or have more difficulty with balance. Other physical and environmental factors can also play a part; some of these may seem obvious, while others you may not have considered. Here are a few common reasons that falls are a serious issue for the elderly:
- Lack of flexibility and coordination
- Vision problems
- Decline in visual-spatial skills due to cognitive changes
- Weak balance and gait
- Loss of sensation because of peripheral neuropathy or diabetes
- Dizziness caused by medications or health conditions
- Low blood pressure
- Anxiety or fear of falling
- Throw rugs, loose carpeting, or uneven flooring
- Clutter, including piles of newspapers, files, and books
Any of these can lead to an increased risk of falling, but chances are good that your loved one has more than one of these factors. Luckily, you can make simple changes to remove some of these problems to prevent the likelihood of falls.
If you want to focus on fall prevention for seniors, you can start with a conversation with your loved one. Ask your senior if he or she is worried about falling. Your loved one may be feeling less stable but may not have mentioned it to anyone. An appointment with a medical provider can also be a good place to start. Be sure that your loved one’s medical conditions and prescriptions are reviewed, including any supplements or over the counter medications, and schedule an eye exam to see if any vision changes have occurred.
Next, you can turn your attention to your loved one’s surroundings. Walk through his or her living space to see if any improvements can be made to the environment. You can work with a certified aging-in-place contractor to add safety features such as grab bars, walk-in shower/tubs, ramps, handrails on stairs, or other changes. You can also organize and clear clutter and remove other hazards such as mats and throw rugs. Add lighting in rooms to brighten up spaces if the current lighting is insufficient.
You should also concentrate your loved one. Observe him or her when walking; does he or she hold on to furniture or have difficulty getting out of chairs? What about shoes; do they have adequate support and non-slip soles? Is an assistive device such as a cane or walker warranted? If your senior is still physically active, encourage it. Walking, tai chi, gentle yoga, swimming, and even light strength training can all be smart options to retain or improve physical fitness, flexibility, balance, and coordination. Physical therapy is also a great way to increase mobility or develop strategies for seniors who may be deconditioned. You may want to consider counseling as well if your loved one fears falling and has been limiting physical movement as a reaction.
Finally, keep a record of all falls your senior experiences. Include details about when and where it happened, what conditions may have led to it, injuries, and any other information you think is relevant. Share your record with your loved one’s physician to work together on a personalized plan for fall prevention for seniors.
We hope your father is on the mend. Stay safe!