Falls in the elderly are a prominent issue that raises tremendous health concerns about the safety and well-being of the older generation. It largely occurs due to age-related changes in the human body. However, having a medical history of chronic ailments poses a greater risk of falling and getting serious injuries and impairments. Frequent falls may also indicate weakness, mobility constraints and the presence of some form of acute or chronic illness in seniors.
Causes of Falls
- Physical Impairments
- Side-effect of medications
- Environmental hazards
- Prevailing health conditions
- Potentially dangerous situations
Impact of Falls
Falls can have a tremendous negative impact on the independence and functioning of elders as it may result in fear, trauma, injury, immobility and physical limitations. Nearly half of all falls result in minor injuries like bruises, sprained ligaments or strained muscles. Falls can also cause more serious consequences like broken bones, ligament tears, injury to internal organs like brain, kidney or liver and deep bleeding cuts and wounds. A substantial number of elders are likely to suffer from fractures in the hip, forearm, pelvis or upper arm region especially if they have weakened bones due to osteoporosis.
Falls can also lead to other problems if old people are unable to get up on their own and have no one to help them. Remaining on the ground for a long time after the fall can cause dehydration, pressure sores, pneumonia and hypothermia (low body temperature). Therefore, various forms of home healthcare for elderly focus on preventive measures to address the diversity of falls apart from taking care of their daily and medical needs. This is done with the objective to help older people lead a better quality of lifestyle without compromising their freedom.
Seniors Fall Prevention
- Exercise every day – It is important to strengthen the muscles especially in the legs and improve balance and steadiness. For this weight training, resistance training, balancing exercises and Tai Chi may be useful. These exercises must be customized to meet the needs of elderly persons and take care of their existing health conditions.
- Consult the physical therapist – Physical therapists may help in reducing the risk of falls by recommending assistive devices like walkers or canes or suggest physiotherapy for senior citizens to improve balance and co-ordination and build strong bones.
- Use protective wear – Wearing sturdy footwear that has firm, anti-slippery soles, flat heels and ankle support can help in walking steadily to avoid falls. Simple head manoeuvres may be used by seniors having dizziness.
- Get your vision checked periodically – Since aging can cause poor vision, it is vital that elders get their eyes periodically and use corrective lenses or glasses. Health conditions like glaucoma and cataract which impair proper vision must also be treated appropriately and not neglected.
- Get a medication review by the doctor – Elders may consult their doctors to check whether any of the medications they are taking are likely to cause falls due to side-effects. If yes, these may be replaced with safe drugs or stopped if possible.
- Have a safe surrounding by adopting the following measures –
- Install the electric switches in easily accessible places or use sensory switches and improve the lighting by increasing the number of lights or changing the type of lighting.
- Remove electric and extension cords that obstruct walking by hanging them over doorways or placing them beneath floor coverings.
- Use adequate lighting for the steps and ensure they have robust railing to give a firm grip when climbing up or down.
- Place anti-slippery mats in all wet areas like bathrooms and kitchens.
- Install grab bars in the toilets and tubs.
- Use sturdy chairs and beds for sitting and sleeping.
- Items that clutter the walking space must be kept elsewhere to prevent obstacles in the way.
- Place frequently used household items such that they may be retrieved easily without bending and stretching.