Falling at any age is risky. Whether you are an infant, child, teen, or senior, falling presents a wide array of risks and possibility for injury. Aging makes it more difficult, or sometimes impossible, to recover from a bad fall.
Falling can be accidental, or it can be caused by other health factors such as joint pain and dizziness. It is important to know what the risks for older adults are, and how to prevent falls.
What are the consequences of falling to seniors?
- Hip fractures
- Hand injuries
- Wrist injuries
- Back problems
- Knee problems
- Long hospital visits
- Relocation to retirement homes
Falls cause the majority of hip fractures in seniors. It also leads to hand and wrist injuries, back and knee problems, or even death. Falls can result in long hospital visits, or relocation to a retirement home that can cost seniors and their families tens of thousands of dollars.
Falls are common in old age because older adults do not have as much balance or coordination as they used to. Falling can lead to loss of independence if their loved ones feel that they are not capable of living at home. Loss of range in motion, impaired vision, or previous injuries are some of the many reasons why the elderly fall.
Statistics on Falls and Fractures in the Elderly
- According to Statistics Canada, it is likely for 1 in 3 Canadians aged 65 and older to fall at least once. Recurring falls are common and can be dangerous
- 2 out of every 3 seniors who previously fell are more likely to fall again in the next 6 months
- In 2013, 61% of seniors in Canada who fell were women, and 39% were men
85% of hospitalizations of seniors are a result of falls
One-third of older adults in Canada who are hospitalized from falls are transferred to long-term care facilities
Generally, the risk of falling increases with age
In 2013, 17% of Canadians aged 65 to 69 reported falling while 27% of Canadians aged 85 and older reported falling
Many falls among the elderly are not reported, so the actual numbers may be larger. Women are more fearful of falling than men, as they perceive themselves to be at a higher risk of falling.
How can I prevent falling at home?
There are things you can do to make your home safe place. Be aware of the possible risks that exist so you work to improve your home setting.
Move frequently used items to accessible places
- This includes kitchenware, plates, utensils, clothing and pantry items
- Reduce the strain needed to reach items in high or low places, and have step stools available where necessary
Install home safety devices
- Make sure there are non-slip mats at each door entrance
- To prevent bathroom falls, think about investing in grab bars in the bathtub and next to the toilet
- Assess your home with your loved ones, and mark or remove any possible fall risks both inside and outside
- Harmless items such as phone cords, coffee tables, or carpets can be risks for falling
Watch your step when using the stairs
- Install handrails with good grips and non-slip mats
- Make sure you are wearing shoes or slippers in the house, and not only socks
- Install good lighting around the house so you can see every step and know where you are stepping
- Ask your loved ones if there is an option to move to an apartment with an elevator or to a one-level home
- If you do not need to use the stairs, the entire risk is removed
Be aware of your surroundings
- Walking outdoors in the winter and after the rain can be high risks for falling
- Any surface that can be wet or icy is slippery and will affect your balance
- Try to have a caregiver or loved one available if you need assistance outside
Ask your doctor about any changes to your vision or balance
- Check the side effects of any medication you are taking, and ask if they could affect any of these factors
- Some medications cause drowsiness, which affects concentration and increases the risk of falling
Wear proper fitting clothing
- Make sure your clothes do not drag on the floor or that is difficult to move around in
- Clothing items to check include overly long pants, large coats, and floppy slippers
- Wear sunglasses or a brimmed hat when heading out on a sunny day so your vision is not blocked by the sun's rays
Try seated exercises
- Switch to exercising in a chair if you are not able to stand for long periods of time
- This is a safer option for you, and you are still able to strengthen your muscles in a seated position
Take your time
- Don’t feel rushed
- A sense of panic can cause seniors to move erratically and can cloud their judgment, causing unnecessary falls
- Most people are understanding and will be patient if you need extra time
Reducing Risks for Falling for the Elderly
Aging in place can seem like one of the best options when choosing long-term care. Discuss the risks at your home and around your home with your loved ones. Long-term care facilities like retirement homes are equipped with trained staff and have the correct equipment for aging adults.
Prevent falling at home by implementing the same level of caution and safety at your house. Falling can present many health issues to the elderly and has many negative consequences, but it is preventable.