Falls are defined as an unexpected, sudden event resulting in a person losing stability and balance. Falls can be caused by slips, trips, or loss of consciousness and can result in serious injuries and sometimes death. According to the World Health Organization, falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide. It is estimated that falls result in 3 million injuries and 37,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.
It is important to discuss the topic of preventing falls as it can help to reduce the risk of injury or death, improve quality of life and provide independence. This guide will look at different strategies and considerations for fall prevention, from aged care to medication awareness, so that you can learn ways to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Aging and Fall Prevention
Falls in the elderly population can be dangerous, resulting in injury, hospitalization, and even death. In fact, falls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injury death for seniors over 65 years old. To reduce the risk of falls, proper aged care is vital. This includes fall prevention strategies, maintaining nutritional needs, and being aware of the risks of aging.
Fall Prevention Strategies
It is important to have an appropriate fall plan in place for those who may be at risk. Some ways to reduce the risk of falls include:
- Improving balance and strengthening the muscles in the legs or using assistive devices to aid in mobility
- Getting eyesight checked regularly and wearing corrective lenses if needed
- Making sure the home is free of clutter, and that flooring is non-slip
- Using grab bars or cane in the bathroom, and installing night lights for nighttime navigation
Maintaining a healthy diet is also important for the elderly to protect from falls. Eating nutritious meals provides the body with the vitamins and minerals necessary for strength and energy. Foods like fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of essential vitamins and minerals.
Risks of Aging
Along with an increased risk of falling, physical changes that occur as we age can increase risk factors. Issues such as vision loss, muscle weakness, reduced sensation in the feet, and slower reaction time can all contribute to an increased risk of falls. It is important to be aware of these conditions and take steps to reduce the risk of falling.
Fall Prevention at Home
Falls can be very serious, especially in the home environment where being alert is essential. Taking proactive steps to prevent falls is important. Whether it’s an elderly parent or a young child, everyone should know the steps to lower the risks of falls and how to properly react if one happens.
All areas of the home should be considered when evaluating fall prevention. Here are some tips to help decrease the risk of falls:
- Keep floors clear of clutter and remove any tripping hazards
- If you have stairs, make sure they are properly lit and have handrails on both sides
- Install handrails in bathrooms and other slippery areas
- Ensure that rugs are secured to the floor and will not slip
- Keep bathroom mats free of water
- Make sure all electrical cords are tucked away
- Install grab bars in the shower/bath tub area
- Store things you use often within easy reach
- Check for any loose carpeting or identified worn wood, tile, or linoleum
For seniors, there may be additional considerations such as installing ramps, widening doorways, or using a raised toilet seat. Speak to your doctor about additional recommendations to improve safety in the home.
Fall Prevention Outside
When it comes to falls outside, there are some specific considerations to bear in mind. Many of the same principles apply, but there are often additional hazards to be aware of.
The first and most obvious consideration is the terrain. If you are walking on rocky or uneven ground, you need to be especially careful. Make sure to use the right shoes for the terrain, as this can help you maintain your balance. Wear appropriate footwear, avoid loose clothes or accessories that could trip you up, and always take your time when navigating a variety of surfaces.
Make sure that the pathways you are taking are well-lit. Poor lighting can increase your chances of falling. You should also ensure that all pathways and steps are free from debris and clutter, as this can also lead to slips and trips.
Finally, be aware of your surroundings. Stay alert and keep an eye out for potential hazards, such as broken glass or slippery surfaces, and be prepared to adjust your route if necessary.
Medication, Physical Activity and Exercise
Falls can be caused by a variety of factors, including medications and physical activities. To reduce the risk of falls, it is important to pay attention to your physical activity levels, as well as the medications you are taking.
Regular physical activity can help maintain balance, strength, and flexibility, which can all help reduce the risk of falls. Moderate-intensity activities such as walking, biking, or swimming are recommended. Talk to your doctor and physical therapist about the types of activities that are right for you.
Certain medications can also increase the risk of falls. A healthcare provider may recommend changing the type or dosage of a medication if there is concern that it is causing frequent falls. Furthermore, combining certain medications, including vitamins and supplements, can also increase the risk of falls. Always speak to your healthcare provider before making changes.
Medicare also provides coverage for medical equipment, such as walkers or wheelchairs, that can help reduce the risk of falls. Additionally, items such as raised toilet seats, grab bars, and handrails can help make your home safer and easier to navigate.
Mental Health and Mental Awareness
Mental health and mental awareness are important for our overall wellbeing, and they can impact our ability to avoid falls. Exhaustion, stress or anxiety can affect our concentration levels, balance and coordination skills, all of which can make us more prone to falls.
Here are a few tips on how to stay mentally healthy and alert:
- Take regular breaks from activities.
- Seek help if you’re feeling overwhelmed or exhausted.
- Reduce stress by carrying out calming tasks such as reading, painting or writing.
- Stay connected to family and friends by staying in touch and visiting when possible.
- Exercise regularly to boost your mood and energy levels.
- Set goals and be realistic about what’s achievable. Don’t overstretch yourself.
If you think you need more support with your mental health, speak to your doctor or contact a mental health organisation such as Beyond Blue or Lifeline.
Creating a Supportive Community
Creating a supportive community is key to fall prevention. Whether you live in an urban or rural community, there are many ways to ensure the wellbeing of all members. Here are some tips on how to create a safe neighborhood:
- Organize activities like sports for kids and teens or a walking group for seniors.
- Provide clear and visible signage for roads, pathways, and buildings.
- Connect with local authorities to ensure proper sidewalk maintenance.
- Keep public areas free from debris that could cause slips and falls.
- Build a network of local support groups.
- Focus on education – teach children and adults the importance of proper safety measures.
- Support programs and initiatives that promote accessibility.
Taking the time to assess the safety of your community can prevent injuries and make your neighbourhood a better place for everyone.
When it comes to preventing falls, technology can be a great asset. From medical alert systems to gait trainers and environmental sensors, new technological advances are making big strides in providing increased safety for seniors. Here are some examples of assistive technology that can be used to help prevent falls:
- Medical Alert Systems: These systems are life-saving devices for seniors who may have difficulty reaching the phone or calling for help. They come in the form of a necklace or bracelet with an emergency button that connects you with an operator who can send help.
- Gait Trainers: Gait trainers are devices that help people develop better balance and coordination. They provide a comfortable environment for older adults to practice walking without fear of falling.
- Environmental Sensors: Environmental sensors are designed to detect hazards in the home such as wet floors, cords, or furniture that might cause a fall. The sensors are placed in strategic locations and will alert the user when there is a potential danger.
By utilizing modern safety technology, older adults can avoid falls and stay healthy. Consult with a doctor or therapist to determine which type of technology is best suited for your needs.
Footwear and Clothing for Fall Prevention
Having the right footwear and clothing can help reduce the risk of falling. Proper shoes with good arch support, heel cushioning and traction can help you maintain your balance. It is also important to wear the proper clothing for the season or weather; loose-fitting clothes and layers that can be added or removed as necessary can prevent trips and falls.
Some tips to help prevent falls:
- Wear shoes with non-skid soles with good traction to prevent slipping
- Wear bright colors or reflective material when walking outside at night
- Avoid high heels and other types of restrictive shoe styles
- Never go barefoot or wear socks or sandals
- Tuck pant legs into shoes or boots to avoid tripping over them
- Improve visibility in the home by removing loose rugs and keeping pathways clear
Having the right type of clothing and footwear can help lower the chances of a fall. Make sure to talk to your doctor about any safety precautions that might be necessary for your individual situation.
It is important to remember that falls are preventable. Taking the right steps, like getting enough exercise, eating properly, and being aware of medication side effects, are just a few ways that falls can be prevented. It is also beneficial to create supportive communities and take advantage of accessible safety technology.
By implementing the strategies discussed in this guide, we can help reduce the number of falls and the injuries associated with them. We hope this guide has equipped you with the tools and the information you need to stay safe and remain independent.