The Risk of Falls and How to Avoid Them

Reducing Fall Risks

When we think of home safety for those aging in place, one of the biggest risks that must be addressed is the risk of falls. A fractured bone or other injury can dramatically diminish quality of life through increased fear of falling, restricted activity, loss of independence and functional decline.

Falls by the Numbers

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury death among adults 65 and older. They are also the most common cause of non-fatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma. One of the biggest problems is 1 in 3 adults age 65+ fall each year, but less than half talk to their healthcare provider about it. 20-30% of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, or head traumas.

Fall Prevention in the Home

Here is a quick and easy way to remember the steps you can take to reduce fall risks in your loved ones home:  

H ...........Home Modification

O ..........Optical Review

M ..........Medication Safety

E ...........Exercise

Home Modification -- > Simple modifications to the home can dramatically reduce the risk of falls in the home environment.

Bathroom: The room of greatest risk is the bathroom. Make sure grab bars are installed in the bath and/or shower. Provide a non-skid surface around the bath/shower. Water temperature should be reduced to 120 degrees to prevent accidental burning. Floor surface should be dry, clean and even. Make sure that a proper shower seat is used.

Stairs & Landings: Handrails on both sides of the stairway are a must and make sure lighting is adequate and that floors are in good shape. Traffic areas should be free of obstacles such as clutter and large furniture.  

Bedroom: Furniture should be arranged safely to allow for easy transitions in and out of beds or chairs.

Optical Review -- > To maintain a lifetime of healthy visions, the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends a comprehensive eye exam every two years for adults ages 18 to 60 and annual exams for seniors age 61 and older. “At risk” adults should have more frequent exams. Watch for risk factors such as a family history of eye disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. Also, be aware of prescription drugs that may have visual side-effects, or previous eye injuries or surgeries.

Medication Safety -- > Properly taking medication is the first step to safety in the home as it can affect how you function. Be aware of any side effects and follow directions and recommendations from your doctor. Some medications can cause hallucinations, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, disorientation, or other symptoms that can increase the risk of a fall.

Exercise -- > One of the simplest and best preventative steps is often the most overlooked. Keeping a regular exercise pattern such as walking 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week will have significant health benefits as well as help with flexibility and balance, two powerful tools to reducing the risk of falls. Light weight bearing exercises can increase strength as well. Senior yoga can also offer increased flexibilty.

If you are concerned that your loved one may be at risk of falling in their home, a good first step is to have a professional Geriatric Care Manager come out to do an assessement of the your loved ones needs and environment. As Registered Nurses or Masters of Social Work, their expertise in eldercare will take the pressure off of the family to coordinate care and catch underlying risk factors. Care Managers are able to assist with medication management, advocacy and can create a plan of care that will address the changing needs of your loved one as they age in place.

Homecare services are also a great resource for families. A Certified Nursing Assistant can come into the home for a few hours a week all the way up to 24 hour per day. They are able to assist with bathing and dressing, preparing meals, running errands, medication reminders, transportation, housekeeping and assistance to safely engage in hobbies, community, and events.  

 

Published on September 4, 2016.