A fall can be quite dangerous at any age, but it can be especially debilitation to older adults. According to the CDC, falls are a leading cause of injury and death in the elderly population. This is because the elderly do not bounce back from injuries as fast a younger people can. This in turn can lead to a spiral of debility over time. It is well known that one fall doubles the chance of falling again, each fall decreasing chances of full recovery.
What is a Spiral of Debility?
If the fall is bad enough to cause a bad injury, the individual may end up in a hospital then/or rehabilitation facility. While they recuperate, even at home, they will not be engaging in their usual physical activities. That in turn leading to general muscle and physical ability deterioration compared to before the fall. And the spiral repeats, with worse outcomes.
What can one do?
Prevention, as they say, is better than cure. Many falls are preventable.
The following are some things one can do to prevent falls:
- Eat a balanced, healthful diet – while out bodies lose muscle mass and energy as we age, eating a diet rich in all food groups will keep the body as strong as possible, and provide the energy needed to maintain ones balance.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! – by the time you get thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. Worse still, is that the thirst centers of elderly people no longer work as efficiently. Being hydrated keeps the body functioning at an optimal level
- Know your medical conditions – Some medical conditions can increase the risk for falls, and some measures can be taken to mitigate them. See your doctor at least once a year for check up
- Know your medication – the side effects, and how they interact with other medications and with alcohol if one takes it. Some medications cause drowsiness or light headedness and so should be taken at bed time. Some effects worsen when certain medications are taken together.
- Eye Care – Have annual eye exams, and fill eye wear prescriptions (and use them!) if recommended. With aging vision declines, causing issues such as poor depth perceptions
- Exercise – use it or lose it. There are many forms of strength training and aerobic exercises. This can range from the simple walk, to yoga to as vigorous an activity that you can safely enjoy
- Dress in appropriate, well-fitting clothing and shoes. For instance, wear belt if needed to prevent tripping hazards; wear shoes with enough, but not too much grip as that too can cause tripping. Women should avoid high heels.
- Opt for shoes or full-foot non-slip slippers when at home. Wearing socks alone can increase chances of slipping and falling.
- Open pathways – keep pathways clear of clutter to avoid tripping, and reduce chances of injury should one occur
- Loose area rugs are a great fall risk. Remember too, that rubber grips wear off as they age, and may not stay in place so need to be checked and replaced if needed. Ensure that the bath mat is also a non-slip kind.
- Trip hazards should be removed/mitigated – extension cords, fan cords, hobby tools and materials, failure to use hand rails on the stairs, open drawers/cabinet doors, uneven floors etc.
- Grab bars – in the shower to help with getting in and out, and to hold on to while scrubbing. Also install one near the toilet to assist both with getting on and off the toilet.
- Lighting – the light should be bright enough to make everything clear, including the shadow prone areas. It should also be placed in such a way as not to cause glare if an individual looks in that direction. Overhead lights would be most preferable.
- Spills – these need to be wiped immediately they happen
All of the above will help to reduce the risk of falls.
If one is not able to do the above on their own, get some help. Get family and friends to help you, or get consistent formal help from an homecare agency.