- Did you know that the danger of falls to older adults has become so high that it is now a national health care priority?
- Falls are the leading cause of traumatic death in older adults.
- About 40% of those who have a stroke end up having a significant fall in the following year
- About half of older adults who are sent home from the hospital for a fall related injury will have another significant fall within six months.
- The leading causes of falls in older adults are linked to their home environment being unsafe
- The second leading cause of falls in older adults are related to poor gait or balance.
- Over half of falls in older adults occur in the home environment
- The average cost of a fall injury in older adults is about $20,000.
Introduction to Fall Prevention
It can take only one bad fall to severely incapacitate or even kill an individual; more so if they are age 50 and over.
There is good news however! There are many simple tips and tricks that can be implemented in order to reduce the risk of deadly falls for yourself or your loved one.
Each tab below contains information on the four general elements of successful fall prevention. They are
- Knowing Medical Conditions
- Understanding Medications
- Maintaining Strength and Balance
- Safe-Proofing the Home Environment
You will find additional resources below these menu’s as well to aid in educating yourself on fall prevention!
1: Know You or Your Loved Ones Medical Conditions
Being aware of what medical conditions increase the risk for falls and/or increase the risk of severe injury from a fall can allow you to be more aware of the risk and to take the appropriate measures to prevent and prepare for falls. If you or your loved one has any of the following conditions, there is a much higher risk for falls and/or severe injury from a fall:
- Heart Disease/ Heart Failure
- Dizziness, poor balance, and weakness all can result from heart problems which increases the risk for falls.
- Additionally, respiratory symptoms are also common with heart problems which can result in many fall related conditions
- Muscle weakness, balance problems, and movement disorders all frequently appear with strokes and significantly increase the risk for falls and decrease ones ability to move about safely
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Tremors, limited movement (foot shuffling), poor posture, are all characteristics of this disease which make it much easier to be a fall victim.
- Low Blood Pressure
- Due to the increased risk for dizziness and fainting, low blood pressure increases the risk for falls.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD/Emphysema,Chronic Bronchitis, Asthma)
- Respiratory difficulties caused by COPD can make you weak, dizzy, and vulnerable to falls.
- Loss of feeling in the legs can result which can compromise ones ability to sense obstructions and sense changes in terrain causing falls.
- Loss of joint flexibility can make it hard to maintain a safe gait and posture leading to poor balance and ability to safely walk without falling.
- Vision Impairment
- These conditions decrease depth perception and ability to sense objects that may cause a fall.
- Mental Confusion
- Individuals with this condition can be inhibited from making sound decisions as to whether a particular area is safe to navigate without falling
2: Know and Understand Yours or Their Medications
Why is this important? One reason is that drugs usually have side effects, and these could increase fall risk or increase injury from a fall. Another reason is that drugs can interact with each other to produce various effects that could increase fall risk or increase injury from a fall. Finally, if medications should be taken, and the individual forgets or simply does not take them, the result of this could increase fall risk or injury from a fall due to withdrawal or an exacerbated/ untreated condition.
What can you do?
- Keep a complete, dated list of the medications (Prescription and Non-Prescription) you or your loved one takes
- Take this to your primary care physician (PCP) and have them do a “medication check.” This will allow them to make sure your medications do not have any specific interactions or side effects that can be dangerous, and it can also give you a chance to explain your concern for fall risk and to get any warnings of specific medications to stay away from.
- Download a handy blank medication list here:[wpfilebase tag=file id=5 /]
- Report new symptoms to your doctor immediately
- They will help you decide if these new symptoms or side effects are caused by medications or if they are more serious and need immediate attention.
- Take/ensure loved ones are taking medications as directed
- If you or your loved one has many to take, use a pill organizer, medication dispenser, or ask your pharmasist to dispense them in a blister pack.
- Use one single pharmacy for all medications
- By doing this, your pharmacist can more easily review your medications and identify any interactions and concerns you or your doctor should be aware of that may increase your/their risk for a fall.
3: Understand The Importance of Streangth and Balance
You may think that if you have fallen, or if you feel you are at risk for falling, that you should probably be less active to stay safe. It seems logical right? Why take the chance of falling again? You may be suprised to hear that research states otherwise. Seniors who are less active are actually more likely to fall because they lack the strength and balence that they need in order to stop themselves from falling. Therefore, it is recommended to start a regular excercise routine of any type, even if you are only taking a few steps at a time!
How to Get Started Exercising
Start slowly! If you are like others, you will find that is only takes a few weeks to gain from staying active. You will have increased strength, balance, and energy. Before you start exercising, you should always consult your doctor to make sure the regimen is safe based upon your health assessment. LearnNotToFall.com has some excellent excercisees you can do right in your home. Access these excercises here.
4: Fall-Proof The Home Environment
Unfortunately, as we age, many of the items in our home that used to be harmeless become disasters waiting to happen. To name a few examples, pets, stairs, throw rugs, and poorly lit rooms all pose great fall risks as we age. Fortunately, many of these potential hazards can be reduced or eliminated.. With the help of a friend, neightbor, family member, or even local volunteers, these hazards can be identified and reduced/eliminated to greatly decrease you or your loved ones risk for falling.
Using the Fall Prevention Home Checklist provided by Easy Living INC. (download below) have you and some helpers go around you or your loved ones home and identify fall hazards and remove them.
Download the Fall Prevention checklist here: [wpfilebase tag=file id=6 /]
What if my Loved One or I do Fall?
You should be prepared in two ways if a fall does occur:
- First, you need to learn how to get up
- Watch the video to the right on how to get up
- Download this document for easy instructions on how to get up:[wpfilebase tag=file id=7 /]
- Second, you need to learn how to call for help. If you are the fall victim and have determined that you cannot get up for any reason, unfortunately there are very few options if you are alone.
- Continually yelling for help should be tried, however it is frequently ineffective depending on your location.
- If you can crawl to a phone without further injurying yourself, this can be attempted with caution only if the phone is reachable.
- Tip: it is a good idea to keep phones as close to the ground as possible and on as many levels as possible for this very reason. Also, many suggest purchasing emergency cell phones and placing them in known areas that are easily reachable if a fall occurs.
- Perhaps the best option is to obtain a wearable call device that you can activate if you do fall. These devices automatically call a 24/7 answering service who will send help immediately your way. A few examples of these devices are as follows:
If you would like additional fall prevention resources. Please visit any of the below sites. They are all excellent sources that will help you in preventing and preparing for falls.