“Taking a tumble” might not sound like a big deal. But for older adults, falls are incredibly serious. For them, these accidents are the leading cause of death and injury, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in every five falls causes serious damage such as a head injury or broken bones.
Fall Risk Factors
While anyone can experience a fall, some factors put older adults at increased risk. According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the most significant risk factors for falling are:
- Decreased strength
- History of previous falls
- Trouble with walking or balance
- Use of psychoactive medications (such as sleeping pills, antidepressants and some pain medications)
Preventing Falls for Older Adults
While falls are frightening, they’re often preventable. These strategies can help you protect your older loved ones from falling:
- Talk to the doctor. A primary care physician can evaluate an older adult’s risk of falling. Your doctor can suggest specific strategies to avoid falls, and may recommend a cane or walker.
- Check vision. People are more likely to trip or stumble if they can’t clearly see where they’re going. Make sure eyeglass prescriptions are up-to-date. Bifocals can skew vision, so consider getting separate frames for distance vision and for reading. Surgery to remove cataracts can also improve vision and reduce fall risk.
- Get new shoes. Ill-fitting or unstable footwear is a fall hazard. Look for comfortable, supportive shoes with a sturdy, non-slip sole.
- Review medications. Some medications can cause dizziness or other side effects that make falling more likely. In addition to the medications mentioned earlier, blood-pressure drugs can cause dizziness or lightheadedness, for example. Talk to the doctor or pharmacist about ways to manage or avoid these side effects.
- Do a home survey. Remove or repair tripping hazards such as throw rugs, crooked steps or loose electric cords. Add railings and grab bars to help your loved one stay steady. And make sure the space is well lit, adding more lights or brighter bulbs as necessary.
- Improve strength & balance. Gentle exercise such as tai chi can improve balance to reduce the risk of a fall. Some older adults benefit from working with a physical therapist, who can suggest exercises to improve strength and balance. Physical therapists from Heritage OnCare can provide these exercises in the comfort of one’s own home.
Fall Prevention in Senior Living
Unfortunately, taking these precautions doesn’t always eliminate the chance of falling. If your parents have serious issues with strength, balance or mobility, they might need extra help with everyday activities such as showering and dressing.
Assisted living can provide that help. Heritage Communities assisted living communities are designed with both comfort and safety in mind:
- Our private living spaces are free of stairs and easy to navigate.
- Caregivers are available 24 hours a day to help residents with tasks such as dressing or walking to the dining room.
- Residents receive a personal safety pendant call system that allows them to reach out for help day and night.
- Transportation services are equipped with a chair lift.
- On-site exercise programs help residents improve strength and balance.
Learn more about the services and amenities at Heritage Communities assisted living.