Fall Prevention for Seniors
As the aging population increases, the number of elderly Americans who fall and suffer serious and even fatal injuries is mounting. Falls are in fact the leading cause of injury related deaths in adults over the age of 65. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the number of people over 65 years who died after a fall reached nearly 24,000 in 2012, the most recent year for which fatality numbers are available – almost doubling the number of those reported 10 years ago. Seniors aged 75 years and older who fall are at least four times more likely than those age 65 to be admitted to a long-term group home for a year or longer.
Most fractures among seniors are caused by falls and rates of fall-related fractures among older women are more than twice those for men. The most common are fractures of the hip, spine leg, pelvis, upper arm, forearm and hand. In 2010, the CDC reported there were 258,000 hip fractures.
The fear of falling doesn’t need to rule your life but it is important to be aware of the statistics and make the necessary adjustments in your home life to avoid the risks.
Preparing for Prevention
It is possible to stay independent by taking certain measures and making good lifestyle choices:
- Start with a visit to the doctor to discuss your health condition(s) and any side effects to medication(s)
- Reduce tripping hazards in the home by adding grabbing bars in the bathroom, railings on both sides of the stairway and improving the lighting throughout the home
- Keep regular appointments with the optician and update your eyewear prescriptions to maximize your vision. You may even consider a pair of single vision distance lenses for activities such as walking.
- Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. It is important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance. Tai Chi workouts are especially good to improve coordination and balance. Weight bearing exercise can reduce the risk of hip fractures, as well as getting adequate doses of vitamin D and calcium from food or supplements. You should also consider getting screened and/or treated for osteoporosis.
- Wear sensible shoes, invest in non-slip soles that are sturdy and fit properly.
Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for a consult with an occupational therapist. Occupational therapy focuses on adapting one’s environment, modifying tasks and teaching skills while educating the entire family in order to increase participation and performance of daily activities.
Assessing all options available is vital in the prevention process. You may even consider touring an assisted living home. Read our blog: “5 Signs it’s time for your loved one to move into assisted living” to get further clarity and make the decision that will work best for you.