Falls are a Serious Risk for Seniors
Falls and trips are not just a moment of slapstick fun for senior citizens – they can cause fatal injuries.
Every year, more than 1.3 million people will be forced to visit an emergency room because of an injury sustained in a fall, more than half a million will end up requiring a hospital stay for such injuries, and almost 20,000 people will die as a result of fall-related injuries. Those statistics don’t take into account the fact that each day more than 1,000 older people fall and break their hip, leading towards a loss of mobility and independence, leaving them at risk of medical complications and putting them in a position where they could die months later as an indirect result of their injury. Once someone has stumbled and fallen once, they are three times more likely to do the same thing again. Therefore, it is important that you work to reduce your parent’s risk of falling over.
Strategies For Preventing Falls
One of the most basic ways to reduce the risk of falling is to remove obstacles from around heavily trafficked parts of the house. This is a good start, but there are other things that you should also do, for example:
Medication: Is your parent taking any medication which may have dizziness listed as a potential side effect? If they are, ask them if they feel dizzy or drowsy within the first hour or so of taking that medication. If they are experiencing side effects, talk to their doctor about the possibility of taking the medication just before bed, or whether there are alternatives that have fewer side effects. If your parent is taking diuretics, try to schedule that medication so that it is not taken just before going to bed, because this will stop them from needing to get up in the middle of the night. Nighttime visits to the bathroom are a common cause of trips and falls in older people. Finally, ask your parent to avoid alcohol, especially if they are on medication because this can increase any feelings of dizziness. Another thing that you should talk to the doctor about is blood pressure. High and low blood pressure can both cause balance problems and increase the risk of falling.
Eyesight and Hearing. Age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma can all impair the eyesight of older people and increase their risk of falling, especially in areas with steps or obstacles. Poor eyesight can also impair balance. It is important that older people visit the optician regularly to have their eyesight monitored. Those who are visually impaired should check out the information provided by the National Federation for the Blind, which includes a list of organizations to help people across the country who are struggling with poor vision. Ear problems can also cause poor balance, so it is important that older people have their hearing tested regularly.
Walking, Strength and Fitness
Do your parents walk a lot? Are they wearing shoes that are suitable for walking in? Ill-fitting shoes, or shoes that have poor grips or high heels can increase the risk of a fall. Also, check that the pants that your parents are wearing are not too long, and a tripping hazard. If your parents wear slippers around the house, make sure that they have good grips and provide ample support. Finally, if your parents have balance issues or poor muscle tone, encourage them to use a walker or a cane to help steady themselves. People who are at risk of osteoporosis should be particularly pro-active about preventing falls. Older people who still have some mobility should stretch, engage in moderate intensity resistance training and light cardiovascular exercise both to reduce their risk of falling and to reduce the risk of injury if they do fall.
If your parent does suffer from a fall, talk to them about what happened, and what they think caused the fall. Explain that falls can be dangerous, and try to work out if they were tired, unwell, or had just taken some medication. If you can identify the cause of the incident then you can help them to ensure that it does not happen again.Read more