More than 25% of Americans aged 65 and over take a fall. While not all falls lead to injury, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury among seniors and are the most common cause of non-fatal hospital admissions. 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually on curbs, steps, and uneven sidewalks, and falling is the most common cause of traumatic brain injury.
In addition to the physical impact, falling can result in the person becoming fearful, impacting on everyday life and making them isolated.
Fall prevention throughout the year
There are a number of ways to reduce the risk of falling. Firstly, arrange for your loved one to review their health and overall wellbeing with their doctor and other healthcare providers.
- Get their level of vitamin D checked out. A deficiency can cause weakness in muscles, causing their legs to give way unexpectedly.
- Review medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter. Check for ones that may cause dizziness or sleepiness.
- Arrange for hearing and eyesight to be tested as either can impair judgment or throw off balance when walking.
- Ask if they are experiencing anything else, such as foot pain or trouble walking.
Review their home to remove hazards and add essential aids:
- Add handrails where needed: on the stairs, in the bathroom, outside external doors.
- Remove hazards such as rugs that can be tripped over.
- Place items within reaching distance so they’re not tempted to stand on a stool.
- Increase lighting if needed so they have improved visibility of potential hazards.
If they are able to, encourage your loved one to sign up for a strength or balance class to help maintain or improve in these areas. Go with them, or arrange for a friend to so that it becomes less about fall prevention and more about a fun activity.
Fall prevention in icy weather
We recommend going out as little as possible when it’s icy out… at any age! If your loved one insists on going out in all weather, ensure that they follow these tips for a safe outing:
- Wear footwear with a good grip.
- Use a walking stick or Nordic walking poles for extra grip
- Walk slowly and keep an eye on the sidewalk for broken areas.
- Salt their steps and pathways for them and ask a neighbor or carer to ensure they are salted regularly.
More than half of those that fall don’t tell anyone. It is important that you encourage your loved one to be honest, as falling just once doubles their chance of falling again. It’s important to figure out why they fell so that serious injuries can be prevented.