Falling is a serious concern for older adults and with good reason - 1 in 4 Canadian seniors will fall this year alone! In fact, falling is the leading cause of hospital-related injuries among seniors, from broken hips and sprained ankles to bumped heads and broken arms.
Here are the most common causes of falls and some quick tips on what you can do to avoid them:
The environment you live in is the number-one cause of falling. From slipping in showers to tripping on carpet and falling down dimly lit stairs, homes poorly adapted to seniors pose significant risk.
To limit the risk of falling within your home start by adding good lighting everywhere, remove clutter from the floor, wear proper footwear, add non-slip mats or tape in the bathroom, and add grab bars and railings where appropriate.
Poor vision can quickly lead to missteps, trips and falls. Older adults have particularly acute vision issues, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration, which can degrade and become dangerous quickly.
Older adults should be seeing their eye doctor at least annually to ensure proper eye care is maintained and prescriptions updated.
With age comes reduced strength, speed, flexibility and coordination - all of which increase the odds of a stumble turning into a fall.
While age can't be reversed, its effects can be slowed. There are many exercise routines specifically designed to prevent falls among seniors by improving strength and balance. In the least, seniors should walk at least once a day, health permitting.
Unfortunately, the majority of seniors are affected by chronic health issues such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and high blood pressure. Many of these health issues increase the likelihood of unexpected falls through fainting, dizziness or lack of mobility.
Outside of practicing due caution, such as getting up slowly and using a walking aid like a cane, the best alternative is to be prepared in the event of a fall. Consider technologies such as medical alert systems, which can automatically detect falls and contact emergency services even if you're unable to call for help yourself.
Most medications are important and unavoidable. However, many can cause drowsiness, dizziness and confusion, all leading to an increased risk of falling. This is especially true during changes in medication regimens.
Discuss any symptoms of drowsiness or dizziness with your doctor to determine an appropriate alternative. Review your medications with your doctor at least annually and discuss their effects and which are still necessary.