Falls for older adults can be a scary, dangerous, and possibly deadly thing to happen.
Did you know (according to the CDC) that 1-in-5 falls cause serious injury such as a head injury or broken bone? Because of this, falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Unfortunately, the fear of these injuries can keep a person from being active and thriving resulting in a negative impact to their quality of life.
First, it is important to understand why older adults fall. While there are many contributing factors to fall risks, most adults have their own unique combination of reasons. If you are wanting to help you loved one prevent from falling, it is best to take time to understand why he or she is particularly at risk of falling. Understanding the contributions to their risk is key to creating a personalized approach for fall prevention.
Fundamentally, falling happens when the challenge to balance and/or strength is greater than the persons ability to stay upright.
When creating a personalized approach for fall prevention, consider these 3 types of fall risk factors:
Health-based risks: These include things such as chronic illnesses, medication side-effects, balance problems, inactivity, vision problems, weakness, slower reflexes, loss of sensation in the feet, etc. These are specific to the individual.
Triggers: These are occasional and/or sudden events that can cause a person’s balance and strength to be challenged. From health-related events such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, for example, in a diabetic), or a outside force like a dog pulling on their leash.
Environmental risks: These types of risks include home hazards (such as loose rugs, uneven flooring, stairways, poor lighting, clutter and other tripping hazards etc.), outside hazards (icy sidewalks, loose gravel, uneven walkways), poor footwear (such as high heels, open-toed shoes, loose fitting shoes) and even the improper use of walking devices such as canes or walkers.
Once you have identified the fall risk factors for an individual, which are almost always multi factorial, you can then break down that list to identify which factors and triggers are related to the most recent or recurrent falls.
After the risks have been listed, start to identify which of these risks can be modified and/or changed. A key part of a fall prevention plan is to implement the necessary interventions. Does the individual at risk have an area rug with corners that turn upwards? Can these corners be taped down, or can the rug be removed altogether? Maybe the individual is due for an eye exam to update their vision prescription. Is it possible they could benefit from strength and balance exercises? Perhaps the individual lives in a home with an exterior walk-up stair-care to their front door. Are they able to convert the staircase to a ramp or have handrails installed? (Check out our before and after photos of ADA compliant Environmental Modifications we’ve completed for our clients!)
Identifying and intervening every risk factor may not be possible, especially those related to medications. If an elderly individual is currently taking a medication that causes dizziness upon waking in the morning, it is important to work alongside their doctor to discuss if the medication can be altered or changed. We encourage you to speak with their doctors to gain additional perspectives. Having a fall prevention plan can help family members and caregivers ask all the right questions for their doctors.
While concerning, it is important to keep in mind that falling once doubles a person’s chance of falling again. However, by reviewing a person’s risk factors and creating a personalized fall prevention plan can help reduce the risk of your loved one falling multiple times. If you or a loved one has experienced a fall and are considering professional in-home help with maintaining overall health, integrity and independence, give us a call today. Our professional team of caregivers and skilled medical providers are eager to help ease the burden and stress of ensuring the safety and well-being of our clients and patients!