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Falls Prevention: How to Reduce Senior Fall Risk
The first day of fall marks the start of Falls Prevention Awareness Week. Falling continues to be a national public health concern for seniors, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating 36 million older adults falling each year. One out of every five falls will also cause an injury, such as a broken bone.1
Many falls can be prevented and aren’t necessarily caused by aging. If you help your senior loved one take the proper precautions, you can reduce their risk of falling.
Here are a few ways that you can help protect the senior loved one in your life from falls.
Make the Home Safe
Making the home safe is one way you can reduce your loved one’s risk of falls. There are many objects that can cause slips and falls around the house, and you might not even notice some of the hazards until you look around each room.
Taking precautions to make your home is safe can help protect your loved one from falls and injuries. Some ideas on how to prevent falls in older adults include:2
- Removing clutter off the floors
- Adding extra bars to the bathroom
- Storing items in easy-to-reach places
- Installing lights that can turn on automatically or be easily voice activated
- Fixing uneven flooring and steps
- Checking that your rugs aren’t slippery
- Installing non-slip mats into rooms
- Removing extra decorations that cause a hazard
- Cleaning up debris and clutter on the porch and sidewalks
Help Your Loved One Stay Physically Active
Encouraging your loved one to stay active is another way to prevent falls. Regular exercise can help your loved one build strong bones, which allows them to maintain mobility as they age. Exercising can also make the muscles more flexible, which improves balance.
Some fun exercises for seniors include:
- Fitness Classes
- Tai Chi
It is recommended that people 65 and over exercise a minimum of 2.5 hours per week. That averages out to 30 minutes on most days of the week.3
If your loved one has a medical condition such as arthritis, discuss different physical activity options with a doctor on how they can safely exercise.
Give Your Loved One Proper Footwear
Giving a loved one proper footwear is how you can prevent falls in older adults. The shoes that your loved one wears might make them more prone to falling if they aren’t suitable to their needs.
Some shoes may be slippery on certain surfaces, such as slippers on a hardwood floor, which can become a hazard. Your loved one should wear shoes that are able to grip any surface in the house.
Making sure your loved one is wearing the right size shoe is also important for protecting them from falls. If their shoes are too big, they might slip inside them; if they are too small, their feet will be uncomfortable and they won’t be able to move around properly.
You should also replace any shoes that are worn out in your loved one’s closet. You can check the soles of their shoes to see if they are in good condition or if they need a new pair.
Expired or old medications can pose a hazard to seniors because they can cause dizziness or confusion. Certain medications also can’t be mixed together, or they might cause your loved one to become disoriented and fall.
A review found that certain types of medications are also more likely to be associated with a risk of falls, including anti-depressants, sedatives, benzodiazepines, and anti-inflammatory medications.4
It’s important for your loved one to discuss their medications with their doctor and figure out if they are at an increased risk for falls. They should also discuss the possible side effects that can occur if they have multiple prescriptions.
Knowing the likelihood of having a fall with certain medications can be one step to getting the right prescription and preventing them.
Give Your Loved One Assistive Devices
Many seniors need assistive devices such as a cane, crutch, or walker to help them stabilize their balance.
It’s important that the equipment your loved one uses is in good condition. For example, if they’re using a walker, the wheels should roll smoothly and the handle bars should not wobble.
You should also make sure that your loved one’s assistive devices are the right size for them. Many seniors have not been instructed on how to properly use their device, which can cause mobility issues if they don’t learn the best practices for utilizing them.
If your loved one currently thinks that they might need an assistive device to help protect themselves from falling, talk to a doctor about their options.
Check Your Loved One’s Eye Prescription
If your loved one wears glasses, making sure that their eye prescription is up-to-date is one way to prevent falls. A good pair of glasses ensures that they can see the world around them and gauge the distance of objects properly.
An eyeglass prescription will usually last one to two years depending on the optometrist. However, if your loved one experiences blurry vision or tired eyes, that might be a sign that they need to update their prescription sooner.5
Getting a new prescription can help your loved one to move around their home properly. Think about updating your senior loved one’s eyeglass prescription if you haven’t done so in a while.
Limit Alcohol Use
Alcohol is known to affect people mentally and physically, but seniors are more prone to falling after consuming alcohol. Knowing the risk that seniors face with alcohol consumption is one way how to prevent falls in older adults.
One reason why seniors should limit their alcohol intake is due to the fact that it can worsen common health issues seniors have. This includes osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, immune system problems, and memory loss. Because of this, health experts recommend that older adults have no more than seven drinks a week.6
However, drinking alcohol is not always safe for seniors, especially if they mix it with certain medications. For example, drinking alcohol after taking cold or allergy medication can make someone sleepy, which can increase their risks for falls. There are also certain combinations that can be deadly when mixing alcohol with medications.7
If your loved one enjoys drinking alcohol at social events or special occasions, make sure to discuss their risk for falls with them and their doctor.
Spread Awareness About Falls Prevention
This week, Saber Healthcare encourages you to spread the word about protecting seniors from falling. We hope that you will talk to your loved one about their risk of falling and discuss any concerns that you might have on this topic.
Here at Saber Healthcare, our staff works to give the residents we care for a safe environment that will allow them to reach their goals. To learn more about the care that we provide, click here.
Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “Keep On Your Feet – Preventing Older Adult Falls.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 16 December 2020. Accessed 21 September 2021. Link: https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/older-adult-falls/index.html
- “6 Fun Summer Exercises for Seniors.” Saber Healthcare Group. 22 Jul 2020. Accessed 21 September 2021. Link: https://www.saberhealth.com/news/blog/exercise-for-seniors
- “Exercise and Seniors.” American Academy of Physicians, Family Doctor. Last Updated 29 August 2019. Accessed 21 September 2021. Link: https://familydoctor.org/exercise-seniors/
- de Jong, Marlies R et al. “Drug-related falls in older patients: implicated drugs, consequences, and possible prevention strategies.” Therapeutic advances in drug safety vol. 4,4 (2013): 147-54. doi:10.1177/2042098613486829 Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4125318/
- “How Often Should I Update My Glasses Prescription?” Bright Eyes Optometry. 21 September 2021. Link: https://brighteyesmv.com/blog/how-often-should-i-update-my-glasses-prescription/
- “Alcohol and Falls.” Arizona Board of Regents, Arizona Center on Aging. 21 September 2021. Link: https://www.uofazcenteronaging.com/care-sheet/care-partners/alcohol-and-falls
- “Facts about Aging and Alcohol.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Aging. 16 May 2017. Accessed 21 September 2021. Link: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/facts-about-aging-and-alcohol