It’s something that the staff at Accredited Home Care is aware of and is happy to give pointers on in order to help reduce falling or reduce the risk of damage if a fall does occur.
But first some facts about falling.
According to the National Council on Aging, 1 in 4 Americans over age 65 falls each year. Falling causes more than 2.8 million injuries that are treated in hospital emergency rooms, and 800,000 of these result in hospitalizations.
Falling has the risk of breaking bones and causing traumatic head injuries. It also is the most common cause of non-fatal hospital admissions and the leading cause of fatal injuries in older adults.
Although it’s easy enough to say that falling is just one of those things that happens to everyone as they get older, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Or at least, there are ways to lower one’s risk and be careful in and out of your house.
Reasons for and risks of falling
An especially sobering statistic from the Centers for Disease Control shows that while one fall could be particularly damaging mentally and physically, the odds of another fall actually double.
This could be due a combination of factors, including physical weakness from the first fall, along with a lack of confidence and even fear. People scared of falling, or falling again, are more likely to not want to go out and not even go out and exercise. They could also be depressed, which further can affect the body.
So a combination of no motivation, fear of going out and a lack of exercise can actually increase the odds of a fall.
People also can increase their fall risks by having a dim house where it’s difficult to see or walk around obstacles, not regularly checking their eyesight or hearing, or keeping themselves in poor physical shape. Poor muscle tone and bad footwear can make it difficult to walk around much, keep one’s balance and go up and down stairs.
One of the roles of the National Institute of Aging is to educate the community, examine trends, and collect data.
On the subject of falls and injuries due to falls, the NIA has a wide variety of information and has outlined a variety of ways to reduce fall risk, including:
- Medicine. Some prescriptions might cause balance impairments, such as narcotics and tranquilizers. Other medications may cause further damage when you fall, such as blood thinners. Check with your provider when he or she prescribes medication to make sure it won’t cause physical impairment, and if it does, that you take precautions.
- Exercise. You don’t need to perform intense work-out routines, but health officials do recommend at least 30 minutes a day of some sort of physical activity. Not only does this increase endorphins and oxygen in the bloodstream, but can help sustain muscles and bones. A routine
- Vitamins. Supplements can also have a role increasing amount of minerals, strength and immune system, including Vitamin D. They can also help promote bone density and performance.
- Classes. Your local community might offer exercise classes especially for seniors. They can focus less on growing muscles but keeping existing muscles in good shape. Some communities also offer programs in how to fall better, smarter and safer. For instance, instructors in the Netherlands have designed a creative course that helps people reduce falls mentally and physically. This includes learning to navigate a course that has different surfaces and elevations.
- Sleep well. This is sometimes easier said than done, but a lack of sleep can contribute to increased risk of falling.
- Get help. Some seniors fall simply fall because they don’t ask for help or don’t utilize tools available that can help them keep their balance. A caregiver or home health aide can help with his role, offering support during walks in or out of the house. Seniors also can use a walker, a cane, a wheelchair, crutches or a scooter. All of these are considered assistive devices.
- Plan ahead for the terrain. Different surfaces may be more slippery than others. In places like kitchens or the bathroom, consider using thicker socks or shoes with bigger grips. If you go for a walk in winter beware of ice and wear appropriate shoes.
- Protect your home. Looking through your home with fall risk in mind can reveal areas where you could potentially hurt yourself or areas you can improve the safety of. For instance, area rugs in hallways could easily catch your foot or cane. Add railings or handles in place like the bathroom can improve the safety, as can putting a chair in the shower.
Your health provider may have other suggestions on ways to reduce fall risk. They also need to know if you have fallen recently so they can continue to monitor your balance and make sure you don’t have any injuries. He or she can also give suggestions about medications or community resources to reduce fall risk.
Overall, the staff at Accredited Home Care is happy to discuss further ways to reduce your fall risk.