Slips, trips, falls. No matter what you call them, stumbles can happen to anyone.
Yet they become more and more common as we get older. Falls remain the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations among Canadian seniors with approximately 30% of individuals aged 65 and older falling every year. Most falls occur in people over 74 years old.
Did you know that over 1/3 of seniors who fall are admitted to long-term care afterwards? This makes falls a major health concern for older Canadians. With peak fall times between 6 a.m. and noon – or in early evening when light is low -what started as a typical day can set off a domino effect that leads to loss of independence.
The good news is you don’t have to be a statistic. Falls are preventable!
Why Falls Prevention Is So Important
Even when falls don’t cause an injury, they often trigger a loss of confidence in the senior and lead to an ongoing fear of falling. Over time, this can lead to the person limiting their movements and reducing their activity, which further increases the risk of falling.
Most falls, however, can be prevented and a person’s risk of injury reduced. With motivation, healthy habits and an awareness of how to reduce risk, we can all play our part in preventing older people from having a fall.
With aging, falls may occur due to:
- decreased bone and muscle strength
- reduced vision and hearing
- poor balance or gait problems
- medical conditions that can cause fatigue, dizziness, weakness, impaired balance or mobility problems
- chronic foot problems
How Can You Prevent Falls and Remain Independent?
Good news! There are many ways to prevent falls—the following are a few highlights.
1. Make modifications to your living space
Whether it’s slippery floors, rickety stairs, or electrical cords, some of the most common causes of falls are in the home where you might have a false sense of security. That’s why fall prevention starts with creating a safe living space.
Maybe you’ve already made some changes to your home environment, such as installing handrails and grab bars, improving lighting and removing items that can be a tripping hazard. That’s wise, but don’t stop there. Click on the link for a home safety checklist from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to assess whether your home is fall proof.
2. Wear safe footwear indoors and outdoors
Be mindful of your feet! Shoes with high heels, slippery soles, those that don’t fit properly, or not tying laces securely can all cause you to lose your balance or trip and fall. Foot problems may also affect your balance and change the way you walk putting you at a greater risk. For more information on choosing footwear, read Proper Footwear Can Prevent Falls.
3. Stay active
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true. Regular physical activity and exercise will increase muscle strength and improve co-ordination so that you can maintain your independence. Also, the more you move and build strength, balance, and flexibility, the less likely you are to injure yourself in a fall.
4. Get annual eye exams
Seniors with low vision are 2.5 times more likely to fall than those without it. Although there are many factors that can cause a fall, vision loss is often the primary cause. Even the smallest change in a person’s vision can increase the risk of a fall, especially in seniors.
Aging eyes can mean decreased sharpness in our vision, an inability to distinguish between shades, problems with glare, and slower adaptation to low light. Any one of these changes increases the risk of a fall and is an essential piece of the falls prevention puzzle.
Age-related vision conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy – or simply not wearing glasses – can prevent seniors from seeing objects in their way and lead to falls.
Compounding the issue, vision loss is linked to decreased physical activity.
5. Eat a Balanced Diet
An inadequate diet contributes to loss of muscle mass and strength, and decreased bone mass. Deficiencies in energy, protein, and micronutrients (like Vitamin D) can also contribute to both visual and cognitive impairment coordination, in turn further increasing the risk of falling.
6. Use assistive devices if needed
Assistive devices like canes, walkers, handrails, and grab bars help prevent falls while hip protectors reduce the risk of injury. Individuals with balance and mobility problems are encouraged to use prescribed assistive devices for daily activities.
7. Manage your medical care to reduce falls risk
Several chronic conditions are associated with the higher prevalence of falling, including Parkinson’s disease, heart failure, cognitive impairments, diabetes, and arthritis. Older adults are also at an increased risk for falls and fall-related injuries if:
- Taking four or more medications daily, prescribed and/or over-the-counter
- Taking heart or blood pressure medications
- Taking medications to help with sleep or to calm nerves, such as sedatives
To prevent falls in older people who live with chronic diseases, care must be well-coordinated and monitored by healthcare providers, and seniors must understand their own risk factors.
November is Falls Prevention Month
Falls can be frightening, especially when you’re home alone. At All Seniors Care, where we place a high value on health, happiness, and overall wellbeing, seniors are never truly alone. Our retirement residences in Canada support healthy seniors and those requiring assistance. Our client-centred approach ensures that seniors needing extra support are identified early. For example, ensuring eye and dental visits are up to date, putting strategies in place to reduce the risk of falls in suites (having the right assistive devices and footwear), making sure medication is taken as prescribed, and monitoring of weight, nutrition and hydration.
Whether you’re interested in a retirement residence in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan or Quebec, give us a call at your convenience and we’ll be happy to chat about how we are helping to significantly lower your loved one’s risk of falling.
Writer – Julianna McLeod
Julianna is a health and wellness expert at All Seniors Care. Her mission is to create content that empowers older adults to form sustainable solutions for lasting health and happiness. She is an experienced writer, editor, and Recreational Therapist living in Toronto.