Preventing Fall Risks for Older Adults
Did you know that, according to the National Council on Aging, every 11 seconds an older adult experiences a fall that requires treatment at a hospital emergency room? Worse than that- every 19 seconds a senior dies from injury following a fall. These numbers are frightening, both to older adults and their families who love them. 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 seniors and their caregivers and loved ones.
Preventing Falls Begins with Understanding the Most Common Causes
Here are the some of the most common reasons for falls in older adults:
- Unsafe Environment: Because seniors often live in the same house for a long time, and these older homes aren’t designed to meet the needs of an aging senior, there are multiple hazards that can contribute to falls. Poor lighting, steep stairs, and unsafe bathrooms are just a few of the contributing hazards that seniors face in their home environment.
- Medication Issues: Problems with medications are another frequent cause of falls among seniors. Interaction between multiple medications, along with the side effects of certain medications, can cause drowsiness and/or dizziness in older adults. It is this resultant unsteadiness that can lead to a traumatic fall.
- Poor Nutrition: Often, seniors suffer from poor nutrition, especially seniors living alone or those who have given up driving. When transportation isn’t easily available, getting to the grocery store to get healthy foods like fresh fruit and vegetables is difficult and poor nutrition can result. Also, sometimes a health condition such as arthritis makes it difficult for a senior to properly prepare healthy meals. Poor diets in older adults can increase their risk of falling.
- Vision Impairment: The risk for vision problems ranging from cataracts to glaucoma increases with age. A fall can be the result of this vision impairment. Also, wearing outdated prescription glasses can increase fall risks. Older adults may not realize their vision has changed and should have an annual eye exam to ensure their diminishing eyesight doesn’t lead to a trauma-inducing fall.
- Lifestyle Causes: Seniors often reduce their physical activity and avoid much walking because they believe they are at a high risk for falling. However, it is in staying active that seniors can improve their core strength, balance, endurance, and flexibility to prevent falls. All people, and especially seniors, 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. Parkinson’s disease, congestive heart failure, dementia, and osteoarthritis are examples of some of the chronic diseases that put seniors at a higher fall risk.
Preventing falls in older adults can improve their safety, increase their quality of life, and bring peace of mind for the seniors and their families. Understanding the causes of falling is the beginning of creating a fall prevention program to reach these goals of safety, life quality, and peace of mind.