How to Prevent Falls in Your Aging Parent's Home
By CarePatrol of Overland Park-Topeka
Did you know, according to the National Council on Aging, older adults experience falls that require an emergency room visit every 11 seconds? Even worse, every 19 seconds an older adult dies from injuries following a fall.
These numbers are shocking to older adults and their loved ones. From hip fractures to head trauma to death, falls are a leading cause of life-threatening injuries for adults age 65 and older. Preventing these falls should be a focus for older adults, their caregivers, and their loved ones.
Preventing Falls Begins with Understanding the Most Common Causes
Here are some of the most common reasons for falls in older adults:
- Unsafe Environment: Because older adults often live in the same house for a long time, and many older homes aren’t designed to meet the needs of an aging adult, there are multiple hazards that can contribute to falls. Poor lighting, steep stairs, and unsafe bathrooms are just a few of the hazards that seniors face in their homes. Older adults should regularly check their homes for fall hazards.
- Medication Issues: Problems with medications are another frequent cause of falls among older adults. Interaction between multiple medications, along with the side effects of certain medications, can cause drowsiness and/or dizziness in older adults. The unsteadiness that results can lead to a traumatic fall. Older adults should talk to a doctor or pharmacist before starting any new medications or supplements.
- Poor Nutrition: Too often, older adults suffer from poor nutrition, especially those living alone or those who have stopped driving. When getting to the grocery store is difficult, older adults’ diets can easily miss nutrient-rich foods like fresh fruit and vegetables. On top of that, a health condition such as arthritis can make it difficult for an older adult to properly prepare healthy meals. Poor nutrition in older adults can increase their risk of falling. Older adults should have access to enough food, healthy foods, and properly-prepared meals.
- Vision Impairment: The risk for vision problems, ranging from cataracts to glaucoma, increases with age as does the need for regular vision exams. Wearing outdated prescription glasses can increase the risk of falling. Older adults should have an annual eye exam to ensure their diminishing eyesight doesn’t lead to a trauma-inducing fall.
- Lifestyle Causes: Older adults who believe they are at a high risk for falling often reduce their physical activity and avoid walking around very much. However, by staying active, seniors can improve their core strength, balance, endurance, and flexibility to help prevent falls. All people, especially older adults, can lower their risk of falls by concentrating on staying active.
- Chronic Diseases: Chronic health conditions in some older adults can put them at a higher risk of a fall. For example, Parkinson’s disease, congestive heart failure, dementia, and osteoarthritis are some of the chronic diseases that put older adults at a higher fall risk. Older adults should monitor the safety of their surroundings especially when a chronic disease puts them at higher fall risk.
Preventing falls for older adults can improve their well-being, increase their quality of life, and bring peace of mind to both old adults and their families. Understanding the common causes of falling is the beginning of creating a fall prevention program to reach these goals of safety, life quality, and peace of mind.