We all want to protect our elderly family members and help them keep safe, secure, and independent for as long as possible. Knowing how to reduce the risk of falling is a step towards this goal.
Unsurprisingly falls and slips are the leading cause of injuries in the elderly. Adults aged 55 and older are more prone to becoming victims of falls and slips which can result in very serious injuries which can diminish the ability to lead active, independent lives. Falls don’t just happen; there is an underlying cause or risk factor involved. A risk factor could be due to a medical problem or disease or it could be due to safety hazards in the person’s home.
As we get older many people experience problems with their sense of balance which in turn can cause slips and falls. Balance is a complex function and is dependence on a number of systems. The labyrinth within the inner ear is responsible for balance but it interacts with many other systems in the body such as the eyes, bones and joints. Unfortunately the elderly are prone to a variety of diseases that affect these systems. Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and strokes are just a couple. Diabetes, vertigo, postural hypotension, eye diseases and some medication can also affect your balance. Gradual deterioration of inner ear function and other bodily functions which are normal with the elderly can all contribute to them feeling dizzy and off balance at times. Balance problems are among the most common reasons that the elderly seek help from a doctor.
However falls from being off balance is just one risk factor. There are many more issues which could cause an elderly to fall. Vitamin D and calcium deficiency are also a cause of falls in the elderly. Vitamin D appears to reduce the risk of falls in seniors by improving muscle function and strength. So it is important as we get older to ensure we are consuming the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D.
Most falls happen in the home and the majority of them can be avoided. Quite often it is just down to loose rugs, slippy bathroom floors, electrical cables, and or a lack of grab rails. Because the elderly cannot recover from a fall as quickly or easily as someone younger it’s important to determine what specific home care needs are required to reduce the risk of slips and falls.
For an elderly person to live independently at home for as long as possible, their homes need to be made safe so the risk of slips and fall is minimised:
Safety Measures to Prevent Falls and Slips
• Talk to your doctor to identify medications which may cause falls or balance related problems.
• Exercise regularly to help keep up balance and coordination
• Ware sensible shoes at all times
• Have eyes checked every year to keep vision sharp
• Remove things that can easily be tripped over such as shoes
• Install a walk in shower or walk in bath
• Installing grab bars above baths and around toilet
• Stairways should have handrails on both sides.
• Ensuring electrical leads are right up against the walls rather than hidden under rugs
• Using non slip rugs in the bathroom
• Installing grab bars above baths and around toilets
• Visit the doctor regularly to check for glaucoma, hearing loss, foot pain, or other problems that can cause balance problems.
• Make sure all rooms are well lit without glare
• Ensure driveways are free of cracks and uneven surfaces