As homo-sapiens, walking on two feet, we have always been susceptible to falls. However, as we get older falling becomes more dangerous as our bodies are no longer as fit or healthy as they once were. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to accidental falls, especially if they are dealing with underlying health conditions or are living alone.
The most common causes of falls in seniors include; muscle weakness, poor vision, and long-term health conditions such as low blood pressure, heart disease, etc. Falls also occur as a result of unsafe environments. Having wet floors, dim lighting, slippery flooring, sliding rugs or mats, and no guard rails on stairs greatly increases the chances of seniors having a fall.
Such falls can be highly problematic for individuals over the age of 65 and can in many instances be life-threatening. As such, falls among seniors continue to be a major public health issue in Canada. This article will look at the most common causes of falling and the ways in which we, as caregivers, can prevent that from happening.
5 Common Causes Of Falls In Seniors
There are many factors that contribute to seniors falling. Often, it is not one, but a combination of these factors that causes an accidental fall. Keep that in mind as we go through 5 of the most common causes of falls in seniors.
Lack Of Physical Activity
It is essential for seniors to continue to remain as active as possible. This is because inactivity can quickly deteriorate muscle strength and decrease bone mass exacerbating the physical effects of aging.
Not exercising regularly as you age can lead to deconditioning resulting in muscle weakness, loss of muscle mass and strength, reduced flexibility and mobility, and poor balance and coordination.
What’s worse is that if seniors do fall their injuries are likely to be a lot more serious. They will also likely take a lot longer to recover. This is why it is essential to always ensure seniors and older adults continue to exercise and remain active daily in some form or another.
Poor or Impaired Vision
The deterioration of sight is common among older adults. Age-related eye diseases can cause seniors to develop poor vision without them even realizing it. This is why it is important to get eye examinations done every year.
It doesn’t matter how healthy or physically fit an individual is. If they have poor vision, they are likely to trip and fall a lot more often.
Chronic Health Diseases
There are plenty of health conditions that can increase the risk factor for falls. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson's, and arthritis are all common in older adults and directly affect their cognitive functioning, physical strength, sense of balance, and joint integrity.
Other chronic health diseases such as low blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and dementia can also increase the risk of falls and fall-related injuries.
Side-Effects As A Result Of Prescription Medication
Taking prescription medication and for that matter, even certain OTC drugs can have lasting side effects that if left unchecked can greatly increase the risk of falls and injuries.
Common side-effects of prescription medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedatives, and opioids can include dizziness, low blood pressure, nausea, and drowsiness.
Polypharmacy, the practice of taking five or more drugs daily, is common practice for nearly 40% of Canada’s senior population. Polypharmacy can increase the risk factor of adverse side effects and drug-induced falls.
Environmental hazards often overlooked in an individual’s home are perhaps the most common of all causes of falls and injuries among seniors.
Poor natural lighting, lots of unwanted clutter, loose rugs or carpeting, slippery or wet floors, and lack of safety equipment such as grab bars, ramps, and guard rails can all greatly increase the chances of falling or tripping making it dangerous for seniors to stay at home, especially alone.
Emphasis should always be placed on home safety and ensuring that no environmental or trip hazards come in the way of your loved one’s daily activities.
The Prevention Of Falls In Seniors
There are many ways you can ensure the risk factor of falls is all but eliminated, at least in one’s own home. How? Well, here are some top tips.
- Wear grippy non-skid slippers and footwear
- Ensure the home has adequate lighting - both natural and artificial
- Remove clutter and keep things clean and tidy
- Remove any wiring, furniture, or obstacles that are placed across pathways
- Have grab bars installed in the shower and toilet area
- Install handrails on both sides of any stairs or steps
- Remove any loose carpeting, rugs, and mats
- Don’t wax or polish floors as they get slippery
- Use bright-colored furniture with no patterns to help seniors with vision impairment
- Note any changes in behaviour as a result of side effects from medication
Unfortunately, sometimes no matter how many precautions we take a fall is inevitable. In such instances, especially if you know your loved one is susceptible to falling, always ensure they have on them at all times an automatic fall detection device such as the one offered by Northwood Intouch.
By taking this one extra precaution you can rest easy knowing that even if a fall does occur you will be instantly notified and your loved one will immediately get the medical attention they need to hopefully prevent any serious harm or injury.