Fight the Fear of Falling: Tips for Your Aging Loved One
A third of all adults ages 65 or older fall every year. Falls are the top cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among older Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It is no surprise that adults in this age group are often inhibited by concerns about falling. You can reduce the risk of falls and increase independence for your aging loved one by using these effective fall-prevention tips.
A Closer Look at the Problem
Approximately 2.3 million fall-related injuries are treated by American emergency departments over the course of one year alone; more than 662,000 of these involved hospitalizations. Typical injuries include head traumas, hip fractures and lacerations. In fact, falls are the most common cause of fractures and traumatic brain injuries among older adults.
Even if your loved one is not injured during a fall, they may, like many seniors, still fear falling. This fear greatly limits their everyday activities and can have unanticipated consequences, such as decreased mobility and fitness. The result? Falls actually increase instead of decrease.
Safety in the Home
Your aging loved one should feel safe and secure in their home. Unfortunately, many kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms, bedrooms and hallways are full of tripping hazards. Safeguard against falls in the home through these simple measures: clear away all clutter, wires and cords to create a sensible path through hallways and between furniture; secure rugs or remove them entirely; and add grab bars and non-slip mats near the shower, tub and toilet where falls most commonly occur.
Proper lighting is also instrumental in preventing falls. Install accessible light switches at the entry to each room, as well as night lights in hallways, bedrooms and bathrooms. Store flashlights in easy-to-reach places for power outages and other emergency situations.
Exercise is an important part of fall prevention. Fitness routines should focus on balance, leg strength, coordination and flexibility. Many senior living communities offer physical fitness programs for seniors which can include effective weight bearing exercises such as Tai Chi and water workouts. Consult with your loved one’s physician before beginning any regimen; he or she may recommend a fitness program or refer you to a physical therapist.
Never underestimate the importance of proper footwear! Well-fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles are an essential part of fall prevention. Slick soled shoes, flat bottom shoes with little support, as well as high heels, slippers and stocking feet, can lead to dangerous slips and falls. Consider having your loved one fitted for an orthopedic shoe, which could help improve balance and provide a better foundation for daily activities and exercise.
The Role of the Health Care Provider
Less than half of older adults talk to their primary care physicians about falls. In fact, a healthcare provider can be a valuable partner in establishing a fall-prevention plan. Ask your health care provider to review all prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. Certain side effects can lead to impairments -- such as drowsiness and dizziness -- which raise the risk of falling.
Additionally, adequate calcium and vitamin D can help strengthen bones, so be sure to ask about the best methods for getting enough of these nutrients. A healthcare practitioner can also screen and treat osteoporosis, as well as perform vision and hearing screenings.
The fear of falling doesn't have to hold back your loved one. By incorporating these simple fall prevention strategies, you can promote safety, independence and a fuller, happier life.
- Minimize obstacles at home and promote safe movement throughout your loved one's living space.
- Weight bearing exercises help build strength, flexibility and confidence.
- Footwear matters! Make sure your loved one wears shoes that fit well and are sturdy, with nonskid soles.
- Your aging loved one’s healthcare practitioner can be a helpful partner in formulating a fall prevention plan.
About Marissa Salvesen
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.