One out of three seniors will fall this year. No caregiver wants his or her senior loved one to become a statistic. But retirees age 65 and older are at risk for falls.
Falls are the number one cause of injuries among seniors, resulting in bone fractures, cuts, bruises, and even fatal brain damage. In fact, of the more than 250,000 hip fractures reported every year, 95 percent are from falls.
Disability can lead to loss of independence and fear. Older adults may be so frightened of falling again that they avoid leaving home.
A fall prevention assessment can help keep seniors healthy and active. It starts with creating a safe living environment. If you care for an aging parent or senior, it may be time to check if your loved one is at risk for falls.
Tops Fall Hazards for Older AdultsFalls can happen anytime, anywhere, but most occur in the course of a senior’s normal daily activities.
Seniors living in their own home may not be as safe as they think. At least one-third of all falls involve environmental fall hazards in the home.
According to the National Institute on Aging, the most common fall hazards in the home are:
- Loose rugs
- Slick, slippery, or wet surfaces
- Clutter on the floor
- Loose stairs
- Poor lighting
- Broken furniture
- Not having stair railings
- Not having grab bars in the bathroom
- Outdoor hazards like ice, sidewalks, and hoses
Other Risk Factors for FallsHealth and medical conditions can also increase a senior’s chance of falling. Common risk factors for falls include:
- Medicines that affects alertness, gait, and balance
- Lack of exercise, muscle weakness, and slower reflexes
- Poor vision or blindness
- Chronic diseases like stroke, diabetes, low blood pressure, and osteoporosis
How Caregivers Can Help Prevent FallsMake sure the senior’s environment is as safe as possible without any fall hazards with these fixes:
- Get rid of throw rugs and secure all carpets
- Clean up clutter such as books and stacks of magazine so keep walkways remain clear
- Install grab bars and place non-slip mats by toilets and bathtubs
- Buy the senior clothing that doesn’t drag the floor or bunch around ankles and feet
- Be sure they have shoes that fit properly
- Add nightlights to hallways, bathrooms, and bedrooms
- Store commonly used food items and clothing in easily accessible locations so the senior doesn’t have to use a stool or ladder
- If possible, modify the home to allow for main floor living
The most effective fall prevention programs focus on helping retirees stay fit, while also working on strength and balance. A physical or occupational therapist can work with the senior to identify their fall risk factors and make recommendations for overcoming them.
The bottom line is adult children and family caregivers need to learn how to spot and correct potential risk factors for falls and to create a plan that helps a senior loved one stay strong and healthy as they age.