Falls are very dangerous for seniors. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that most fractures among older adults are caused by falls and that they are the leading cause of hospitalizations. Preventing falls is one of the most important steps that can be taken to protect the health of seniors. Here are the top three reasons why seniors fall and how to implement the best fall prevention strategies.
1. Medication side effects: Seventy-two percent of people over the age of 55 take at least one prescription medication. More than 20% are taking four or more drugs and many of them create a fall hazard. Researchers have now created a category called “fall-risk-increasing drugs” in order to study the problem and find solutions. There are nine types of drugs that pose the greatest risk for falls:
- Anti-hypertensive drugs that treat blood pressure.
- Diuretics that treat water retention.
- Sedatives used to improve sleep.
- Neuroleptics and antipsychotics to reduce confusion and hallucinations.
- Antidepressants used to treat depression and anxiety.
- Benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety and psychiatric disorders.
- Narcotics like opioids used to treat pain.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used to fight swelling.
All of these drugs may have the following side effects:
- They round the bottoms of the feet causing imbalance.
- They blur vision.
- They cause dizziness and lightheadedness.
Review all the drugs your loved one takes with his or her physician. Ask if any of them have side effects that could lead to a fall. If they do, ask the physician to change the medicine or if it can be taken at night rather than in the morning.
2. Vision problems: Poor vision can easily cause seniors to fall. It creates an imbalance and makes it difficult to judge changes in walking surfaces. It may also impair depth perception. Multifocal glasses contribute to this problem because if not worn properly they can make it difficult to see contrasts between colors, textures and surfaces and they may impair depth perception. It’s important to have your loved one’s eyes checked. If possible, avoid multi-focal glasses. It is better to buy two pair than have a senior try to navigate different vision levels within one lens.
When you discuss your loved one’s medications with his or her physician, ask if any of the medications could impair vision. If so, request a change in the medication.
3. Fall hazards in the home: The home can contain many fall hazards, ranging from rugs to poorly lit doorways and stairways. You can conduct an inventory of the home to remove those fall hazards and help to prevent falls. Here are some of the things that need to be removed to prevent falls:
- Throw rugs.
- Piles of clutter on the floor, stairways, beside the bed and on countertops. If your loved one begins to fall and grabs a counter piled with papers, the papers will slip and so will your loved one.
- Water and food bowls for pets should be under a table or hutch or in a corner where they cannot be tripped over.
- Electrical cords should not trail across traffic patterns or be in a place where they can easily be tripped over.
Other ways to prevent falls include:
- Walkways into the house should have even surfaces and be well treated in winter months.
- Lighting should be bright and well placed throughout the house. Make sure that stairways are well lit. Check lamps beside chairs and the bed. Make sure that they are within easy reach of your loved one and that bulbs are bright.
Fall prevention in senior steps can help curb some of the regular dangers your loved one may face in their home. Falls pose a significant hazard to your senior loved one. You can help to prevent the falls that may lead to broken bones and hospitalization by making sure these top three reasons for falls are addressed.