One of the biggest health concerns among seniors is the injuries that can result from falling. In fact, falls are the most common cause of injuries among the aging, resulting in fractures – especially hip fractures – cuts, and serious head and brain injuries. An accidental fall can be especially dangerous for someone who may be unable to get to a standing position without help.
Even falls that don’t cause a significant injury can negatively affect quality of life. When someone falls once or twice, it frequently causes them to become afraid of walking around in their own home, potentially leading to depression and loneliness.
Statistically, one out of every three seniors experiences a fall every year. Fortunately, falls are not difficult to prevent. By understanding what causes them in terms of your health condition, certain behaviors, and the environment around you, there are steps you can take to substantially reduce your risk of falling.
What Causes Falls?
If you’re concerned about falling, discuss your fears with your doctor because certain chronic health conditions and medications can contribute to the risk. As you age, some health conditions can cause you to feel dizzy or short of breath, or experience pain in your joints or numbness in your feet, making it difficult to walk. Also, aging causes your muscles to gradually weaken and your sense of balance to deteriorate, which can also increase the risk of falling.
When you see your physician, ask about the medications you’re taking, both prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements. Some anti-depressants and pain medications can cause fatigue or dizziness, so if you’re already having trouble with your balance, it may be necessary to adjust your prescriptions. A drug interaction could also be causing problems.
Another major contributor to falling among seniors is that there are tripping hazards within the home. Low furniture like footstools and ottomans can get in the way while you’re trying to walk from room to room. Electrical wires from floor lamps and home fixtures, along with loose or torn carpet, can create tripping hazards as well. In some cases, poor lighting makes it difficult to see where you’re going, creating the potential for a fall.
Finally, another significant reason seniors fall is that they have certain habits and behaviors that increase the risk. For example, it’s common to forget as you age that you simply don’t move around as easily as you used to. So, when you try to get up from a chair too quickly, or walk too fast trying to answer a telephone call, it’s easy to lose your balance and end up on the floor.
Lowering the Risk of a Serious Fall
Often, much of the pain and suffering that results from a fall occurs not just because of the fall itself, but because help doesn’t arrive fast enough. If you fall down while you’re alone at home and you break a bone or are knocked unconscious, or even if you just can’t get up and make it to a telephone, you might wait a long time before somebody comes and checks on you. That’s why it’s a good idea to get a wearable health alert device that allows you to push a button to call for help in an emergency.
It’s also a good idea to make your home as safe as possible. For example, make sure your house is not an obstacle course of clutter, such as boxes of keepsakes, stacks of newspapers and magazines, and other objects sitting on the floor. Look for areas where the floor gets slippery if it’s wet, such as showers, kitchens, and outside porches, and put down non-slip mats.
Install handrails and grab bars in the shower and near the toilet so you can safely get out of the shower and stand up from a seated position. If you live in a home that has stairs, make sure the handrails are properly installed and not showing any signs of looseness. And if at all possible, try to live in a home that’s all on the same level so you can avoid stairs altogether.
If you take these steps and generally make your safety a high priority, you can almost eliminate the risk of taking a serious tumble and hurting yourself. Because the last thing you want is to become just another statistic on seniors and accidental falls.