Preventing Falls

Falls are the most common cause of injury to seniors. About 40% of nursing home  admissions are the direct result of a fall – meaning that falls are one of the greatest threats to a senior’s independence.

Why are seniors at risk?

As we age, our bodies change and seniors often experience problems with both eyesight and balance, impeding their agility. Loss of muscle and bone strength are also factors affecting reactions and stability. Sometimes medications a senior may be on can affect balance.

What can be done to prevent falls?

Reducing the risk of falling can fit into two categories: Personal Factors; and Environmental Factors. Personal factors are what a senior can do to improve their balance; and environmental factors are things that can cause falls or accidents. We have little control over the latter outside the home, but can focus a lot of effort on personal factors.

Personal Factors:

  • The most important personal factor to focus on is exercise. This can be further divided into three subcategories you should focus on:
    -Stamina: Improving cardiovascular fitness so you don’t fall from tiredness when you’ve been walking or out for too long.
    -Strength and balance: Increasing muscles mass through simple strength exercises will give your body more stabilizing muscles.
    -Reflexes: Exercise can help your body to be more responsive, and react quicker to risks.
  • Medications: If falling is becoming a concern, talk to your doctor about what medications you may be on. Perhaps a loss of balance is a side effect, or maybe a combination of more than one medication is producing such an effect. Finding medications that are safer for you will be a great aid to your health.
  • If you haven’t exercised before, or not since your health has changed, try consulting a personal trainer who specializes in elderly activity.

Environmental Factors:

  • Most falls happen at home, where we spend most of our time. As we cannot effectively control environmental factors outside the home (such as bumpy sidewalks, snow and ice, or tripping hazards), it is more beneficial to look at what we can do inside the home to make it safer.
  • Flooring: If slippery flooring is in your home, consider changing it. Rugs are not ideal, as the edges are easy to trip over.
  • Install handrails throughout the house, especially in rooms where falls are likely such as the shower, and any staircases.
  • Ensure that the house is equipped with proper lighting, to minimize risk of falling at night.
  • The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the house and may require small renovations (see Creating a Safe and Comfortable Washroom).
  • Look for hazards: Cords that can be tripped on, excess clutter, objects on high-up surfaces that may fall, or too much furniture making the house difficult to navigate with a walking aid.
  • Finally, ensure help is always easy to reach. Consider placement of telephones or emergency cords in the house so that you or your elderly loved one will be able to reach them in event of a bad fall.

Remember that while aging is a part of life, you can be proactive about maintaining your independence and your strength by following these preventative guidelines. Ask your doctor or physical therapist about what else you can do to maintain good health and stability so you can continue to live safely and independently.