5 Tips for Fall Prevention in the Elderly
September 22, 2020 | Preventive Care
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) Falls Prevention Awareness Week runs from September 21 through the 25. Falls remain a leading cause of injury for adults 65 and over. Above all, they threaten both the safety and independence of the aging population. This is why it is critical to learn more about fall prevention in the elderly.
According to the CDC, one out of four older adults will fall each year in the U.S., making falls a public health concern among the aging population. Most people think that falling is a normal part of aging. Another misconception is that if you limit your activity or stay at home, you won’t fall.
These are myths as most falls are preventable. It’s important to understand that risk factors such as increasing age, medication use, cognitive impairment and sensory deficits, can put you at risk of falling. If you want to learn more, you can answer these twelve questions to determine your risk of falling.
Even if your risk is high, have no fear. With some practical lifestyle adjustments you can reduce your risk of injury. Here are five things to be aware of for fall prevention in the elderly.
1. Incorporate exercises to improve balance.
Exercises will increase strength, coordination, balance, flexibility, bone density and endurance in seniors while decreasing the risk of falling and injury. Many people develop a fear of falling which can lead them to limit their activities. However, this decreases movement and physical fitness and actually increases the risk of falling.
If you’ve ever injured yourself because of a fall, you might naturally avoid the same activity. However, this avoidance can cause a change in lifestyle, normal activity, and a weaker, deconditioned body. Decreasing activity can have dangerous consequences and can increase your risk of falls.
Here are four exercises for fall prevention in the elderly. Also, classes that include balance moves or postures are helpful, such as yoga or Tai Chi.
Iora offers free fitness classes and events that are open to the community. Visit our events and classes page to view upcoming events.
2. Prevent slips and trip falls at home.
An easy way to think about fall prevention at home is to make sure your environment is safe.
Sometimes things are outside of our control, but here are some things you can do to remove common trip hazards around the house:
- Remove things from walkways such as cords, wires, boxes, clutter or excess furniture
- Secure rug edges to the floor using tacks, slip-free adhesive strips or double-sided tape
- Install railings or non-slip adhesive strips to stairs
- Use non-slip mats in your shower or bath
- Ensure there are night lights and/or lights within easy reach
There are other common fall hazards to watch out for in your community as well:
- Cracked sidewalks
- Curbs or uneven surfaces
- Wet or icy surfaces
- Poor lighting
3. Have a conversation with your primary care provider about fall prevention.
Discuss things like your medications and health conditions. Could a medication you take increase your risk of falling? Do you have a chronic condition that affects your balance? Do you ever feel dizziness or a loss or change of sensation in your feet?
Your attitude towards falls also has a big impact. People who are more fearful of falling are actually more likely to fall. Nonetheless, some questions you can ask yourself to learn more about your perception of falling are:
- Should falling be accepted as a natural part of aging?
- Could reporting a fall to your doctor or family member result in loss of independence for you?
- Do you avoid leaving your house due to a fear of falling?
4. Schedule an Eye Exam.
As you age, your eyesight tends to worsen. Research shows that vision problems are among the top contributors to falls among the elderly. Therefore, it’s important to have annual checkups with an eye doctor. Your eye doctor can help you keep your vision sharp so that you can prevent any falls from occurring.
During your exam, be sure to bring up any concerns of falling, especially if you’ve fallen in the past. You can expect the eye doctor to check you for age-related vision problems that can contribute to falling such as Glaucoma (can damage the optic nerve and affect your peripheral vision), Cataracts (can cloud your eye’s lens and impact one’s ability to distinguish colors and shadows), and any other visual impairment.
5. Talk to family members or a caregiver about fall risk factors.
Don’t face the issue of falling alone. Ask for help from the people around you. Together, they can help you take the necessary actions to prevent falls from occurring. Be honest with your loved ones and express your concerns.
At Iora, we have Behavioral Health Specialists who can help with your answers to these questions. During Falls Prevention Week or at your next appointment, talk to your primary care provider or other members of your care team about creating a risk for falls care plan.
Most falls are preventable, especially if you incorporate exercise to improve your balance, safe-guard your home to prevent slips and trip falls, and have a conversation with your primary care provider to discuss medications and symptoms you may be experiencing that increase your risk of falls. We want to work together to help you reduce your risk of falls so you can maintain your independence for as long as possible.