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Reduce the Risk of Senior Falls

Reduce the Risk of Senior Falls

Falls Prevention Day was last month, but every day is a good time to talk about the serious issue of senior falls. Did you know that more than one out of three people over the age of 65 falls each year and falls are the leading cause of fatal injury in seniors?

Falls can pose a very real risk to your independence, your health and your life – and falling once doubles your chances of falling again. Not only can a fall cause serious injury, it also comes at a cost: In 2020, the cost of falls in the elderly is expected to reach $6.7 billion. Much of that cost is paid by Medicare, but in 2015, about $12 billion was paid by private insurers (which can result in rate increases), and families.

The good news is that while senior falls can’t be prevented completely, there are things you can do to lower your risk of falling.

Why Seniors Fall

While the risk of falling rises with age, falls aren’t an inevitable part of aging: There are several reasons for senior falls. Any one of them, or a combination of two or more, can increase your chance of falling. The more risk factors you have, the greater the chance you will fall.

Here are some of those factors, along with what to do about them:

Poor eyesight

Eye disease or failing vision can make you misinterpret what you see or not see a hazard at all.

What to do: Have your eyesight checked regularly, and if you are prescribed glasses, be sure to wear them. If you have a new prescription, take time to get used to your new glasses.

Medical conditions

Conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or problems with your thyroid, can affect your balance.

What to do: Be sure to see your doctor regularly and tell them if you are having balance issues. Your health is an important factor in preventing falls.

Lower body weakness

Weakness or pain in the back, hips, or legs can affect your balance.

What to do: Use an assistive device, such as a cane or a walker. The cane should be the right size for you and the walker wheels should roll smoothly. Be sure to consult your doctor about choosing the right device.

Prescription medication

Talk to your doctor about medications that may put you at risk of falling.

Some prescriptions can cause dizziness or confusion. If you’re on several medications, the combined effect may cause balance issues.

What to do: Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if your medication makes you dizzy or confused. It’s possible you may need a change in the dosage, or a different medication may be needed.

Foot problems and unsafe footwear

Foot problems can affect your balance and wearing the wrong footwear can be a cause for senior falls.

What to do: Wear rubber-soled, no-skid shoes, or lace-up shoes with non-skid soles that fully support your feet. Women should forgo high heels and stick to low heels.

Decreased endurance and slower reflexes

You aren’t quite as strong or nimble as you once were. Slower reflexes make it more difficult to react to the unexpected and lower endurance means you tire more easily. When you’re tired, it’s much easier to trip and fall.

What to do: Talk to your doctor about physical exercise that works for you. Regular exercise strengthens muscles and increases endurance. It helps with flexibility. And it’s good for your mental health, too!

Fear of falling

Believe it or not, being afraid of falling puts you more at risk of falling! Sometimes older people avoid outside activities because they’re afraid of falling. But not exercising and keeping active leads to a decrease in muscle strength, endurance and flexibility, which in turn put you at risk of falling.

What to do: Talk to your doctor. They can assess your medical health and reassure you about your risk. Perhaps try exercises such as tai chi or yoga that will help strength and boost confidence. Don’t be afraid to be active!

And of course, be sure to get plenty of sleep and avoid excessive alcohol.

Outdoor falls

Assistive devices can help mitigate fall risk.

About one-quarter of all falls occur outside, but near your home. When outside:

  • Watch for uneven sidewalks or cracks in the sidewalk; walk on grass if you don’t feel comfortable on pavement.
  • Be sure to wear your prescription eyewear when walking outside.
  • Use extra care when there’s rain, snow or ice.
  • Wear comfortable shoes with non-skid soles.
  • Be aware of curbs and changes in elevation.
  • Take your time.

Risk factors at home

Right inside your home there may be many risk factors you never thought about. Six out of 10 falls happen in the home. Here are some ways to make your home safer and to lower your risk for falling:

Staircases

  • Clear staircases of all objects such as books, baskets and shoes.
  • Put a rail on each side of the staircase and make sure the rails are secure.
  • Don’t use scatter or small area rugs – especially at the top or bottom of stairs.

Kitchen

  • Keep items on lower shelves
  • Never use a chair as a stepstool. If you need a stepstool, get one with a railing.
  • Get a “reach stick” grabbing tool at a local hardware store or medical supply store for hard-to-reach items.

Living areas

  • Make sure the home is well lit, especially at the top and the bottom of staircases.
  • Keep the main walkways in the house neat and make sure there are no books, shoes, or other objects in the way.
  • Tape the edges of large area rugs or affix them to the floor to prevent tripping.
  • Put no-slip strips on tile and wooden floors.
  • Place electric cords and telephone wires neatly near walls and away from walking areas.
  • Arrange or remove furniture so there is plenty of room for walking.
  • Keep items you use often within easy reach.
  • Be aware of where your pet is whenever you get up or walk around.

Bedroom

  • Use a night light and have light switches close to your bed.
  • Keep a flashlight by your bed in case the power is out, and you need to get up.
  • Keep your telephone near your bed.

Bathroom

  • Install grab bars in the tub/shower and near the toilet. Consider using a shower chair and hand-held shower.
  • Place non-skid mats, strips, or carpet on all surfaces that may get wet.
  • Have a night light in the bathroom.

Get a Home safety assessment

One way to reduce the risk of senior falls is to make sure your home is safe and presents a low fall risk by doing an in-depth risk assessment. A home safety assessment is especially important for those who wish to age in place. Up to 50% of home accidents among seniors can be prevented by proper home modification and repairs. We can assess your home’s safety, recommend the necessary modifications to make your home environment safe. For more information, go to https://themainemove.com/our-services/home-safety-assessments/ or call for a free consultation: 207-313-3797.

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