According to the World Health Organization, falls are one of the leading causes of emergency visits of people over 65 years of age. In fact, falls are the prime reason for injuries in the elderly.
So, what are some fall safety tips for seniors?
- Encourage elders to stay active.
- Focus on improving vision.
- Be mindful of medications
- Eliminate fall risks and tripping hazards at home.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that 3 million elderly people are treated in emergency for fall injuries each year. When a senior falls, they are likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries, cuts, fractures, and broken bones.
If you are a senior or have an elderly loved one at home, you can focus on preventing the risk of falling by learning about the causes of falls and employing some the following fall safety tips for seniors.
How Can The Elderly Prevent Falls?
To elaborate more on what we said in the introduction, these fall safety tips for seniors can help reduce their risk and make falls less likely.
- Elders should stay active. A physically active person has strong legs and muscles, which reduces the risk of falling. In the long run, exercise also improves the body’s mobility and flexibility and helps lessen the symptoms of arthritis, which reduces the chances of falling.
- Focus on improving vision. Vision problems can increase the risk of fall in seniors. Having your eyes checked regularly and wearing any needed glasses or contact lenses can decrease the risk of falls.
- Be mindful of medications. Some prescription drugs may cause drowsiness or dizziness, which increases the risk of falls for seniors.
- Eliminate fall risks and tripping hazards at home. Throw rugs, poor lighting and cluttered space are fall hazards that should be removed.
What Are The Most Common Causes Of Falls In The Elderly?
As your age advances, the body tends to become weaker, resulting in gait and balance changes. These biologic changes could increase the risk of falling.
There are many common causes of falls in the elderly that can include medication, health, vision, dementia and more.
Some medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and vision problems (cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration, for example), may affect gait and balance.
There is also a higher risk of falling if a person is suffering from osteoporosis, which due to the loss of bone density and thinning of bone tissue. A fractured hip is the consequence in many such patients.
Foot pain is also another common cause of falls in the elderly.
Seniors may also suffer from falls as a result of the side effects of some medications. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficient calcium and B12 intake is common among the elderly and may contribute to weakened bones and joint and muscle disorders. It may further create spinal disorders, such as sciatica, which make seniors more vulnerable to a fall.
Other causes of falls among seniors include:
- Falling from bed
- Postural hypotension (sitting or standing up too fast)
- Pain related to arthritis
- Acute illness
- Visual problems
- Confusion and cognitive impairment
- Disorders of the central nervous system
What Are The Risk Factors For Falls in Older Adults?
Frailty and mobility impairment factor in as the leading cause of elderly falls. A survey on elderly falls blames mobility and balance problems as the prime cause of falls among 75 to 84 year olds. The elderly who require help with activities of daily living are at the highest risk, followed by those with limitations in walking and balance activities.
Nursing homes often find a connection between frailty and functional disabilities and falls in the elderly.
Further, age-related disturbances and impairment of central neurological and motor functions may create problems for postural reflexes. This is a causative risk factor in falls. Adding to this is the age-related slowing of weakened skeletal muscles responsible for postural control and walking, which further aggravate the risk of fall in the elderly.
Where Do Most Falls Occur In The Elderly?
Unfortunately, falls in or around the home are a common occurrence. Most elderly men tend to fall in the garden or while working in the yard, while women fall more often in the house.
One small factor that can contribute to slips and falls are inappropriate footwear. It seems like such a simple little thing but wearing shoes with smooth soles or ones that don’t fit properly can help to create a situation where your senior loved one can slip or trip and fall.
My list of what makes a shoe or slipper safe for seniors includes:
- Shoes with rubber non-slip soles
- Secure back heel (decreases the chances of the shoe slipping off the foot)
- Easy to slip on and slip off
- Ankle support if needed for the senior wearing the slippers
- Fits properly (not too big, not too small)
- Comfortable to wear
- Accommodates issues such as high arch, planters fascitis, morton’s neuroma, arthritis, etc.
More information and product recommendations in our article on Slippers For Elderly To Prevent Falls.
While a single level home is best for seniors, even that doesn’t stop falls altogether. A survey conducted by Gill et al. (2000) reported that senior residents of dwelling units without stairs still fell in living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways.
Where do most falls occur within the home? Well, it turns out that the bathroom is the most dangerous place for a fall – not just for an elderly person, but for everyone. The CDC notes that over 230,000 people fall in the bathroom every year, with seniors above 65 years reporting the highest injury rate. This includes hospitalization and fractures.
Slipping in the bathtub or shower tops the list of falls, but standing up or sitting down on the toilet seat and getting out of the tub or shower are also causes of bathroom fall injuries in adults.
How To Prevent Falls In The Kitchen
- Provide adequate lighting to improve visibility.
- Remove throw rugs, or at the very least, secure them from sliding with non-slip backing or by putting a slip resistant material underneath. (Read more about why you should eliminate throw rugs in our article, Are Throw Rugs Dangerous For Seniors?).
- Immediately clean up any spills.
- Place a sturdy step stool with a handle within easy reach. This way, seniors can balance themselves when they need to retrieve items from high shelves. Better still, encourage them to ask for help in such cases or empty high shelves and move items to lower shelves.
- Place slip-resistant, water-absorbent mats near any sources of water (i.e. the kitchen sink, the refrigerator, or by a counter that has a water filtration system on it).
- Keep chairs with arms in the kitchen for seniors to sit on /stand up from hassle-free.
- Place frequently used items on easy-to-reach shelves and in lower cabinets.
How To Prevent Falls In The Bathroom
To make a bathroom safer, use these safety tips:
- Install grab bars everywhere in the bathroom – both inside the tub or shower, outside it, and on both sides of the toilet. These grab bars must be able to support the senior’s weight, while giving adequate support for the person to grip onto if they slip. *NOTE – suction grab bars are not adequate support and are a fall risk because the suction cups can easily come off the wall.
- Put bright lights in the bathroom to improve visibility.
- Be sure that electrical outlets are easily accessible.
- Remove throw rugs. If this is not an option, use only non-slip or slip-resistant rubber mats. Be sure to test these on occasion, too, because they can dry out underneath, allowing the rug to slide if the person steps on it the wrong way.
- Remodel the shower to a walk in shower. If the senior uses a walker, cane, or wheelchair, having the normal, slightly raised “lip” at the shower entrance can mean a higher risk of falling.
- Keep the shower or bathing area free of barriers. This means eliminating extra bottles of bathing gels and shampoos, cleaning supplies and sponges, etc.
- Use a shower bench.
- Remove all obstacles from the bathroom that could hinder movement and make the senior fall. This includes such things as scales, toilet roll holders, magazine holders, etc.
- Install non slip floor tiles on the shower floor or cover the floors with non slip floor coatings that can be painted on (get at your local flooring store).
- For more ideas, see our article, 10 Tips On Creating Safe Showers For Seniors.
- Use an Amazon Echo device in the bathroom – you can enable it to call for help with the Buddy skill or it can call 911 or your contacts via Echo Connect and the Mastermind Skill.
How Many Elderly People Fall Each Year?
Every second of every day, an older adult (age 65+) suffers a fall in the U.S.—making falls the leading cause of injury and injury death in this age group. – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
According to the CDC, 30 million senior adults fall annually and 3 million of them require treatment. Moreover, one in five falls in seniors poses a risk of serious injury. The most common injuries suffered by an elderly include traumatic head injury, fractures, and broken bones. Statistics also reveal that 6 of 10 falls happen in the home (more on this in the section below: Where Do Most Falls Occur In The Elderly?).
Unfortunately, in the elderly, it is a fact that once a senior has fallen, the risk of them having another fall doubles.
Advancing age is responsible for falls among elders, especially seniors 75 years and above are five times more likely to fall and make an emergency visit to a long-term care facility.
Are Falls A Normal Part of Aging?
No doubt, with age comes difficulties with balance and walking, but that does not mean falls are a normal consequence of aging. In fact, people of all age groups fall, so falling should not be considered part and parcel of getting older. That said, the aging process does play a role in weakening the body and mind, which can result in falls.
For the elderly, the consequences of falls are much worse than in a younger person, due to weakened bones and loss of muscle. An older person is also more likely to sustain a serious injury and suffer from a loss of confidence as a result, which puts them at a high risk of another fall.