Reduce fall risks in the elderly

Can we help our elderly parents or grandparents, or friends or neighbors, to prevent fall?

Yes, we can. It is not easy but can be done with planned actions.

Fall can be caused by many reasons or a combination of reasons. But the most common fall risks factors in older adults are:

  • Unstable gait and balance
  • Poor vision
  • Unsafe indoor or outdoor environment
  • Unwanted effects of medication
  • Health conditions such as: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis.

Armed with this knowledge, we can take step by step actions to reduce the risk of falling, and avoid tragic consequences associated with falls. 

How to reduce fall risks?

The National Council On Aging has a 6-steps guidelines which I outline below: 

  1. Talk to the older person about falls and possible ways to prevent it from happening. Is he or she worried by it, especially if he/she lives alone? Encourage them to get help from their healthcare provider, who should also direct them to get in touch with other services.
  2. Discuss with the older person about his/her current health condition. Are there problems with dizziness or balance? Have he/she experienced vertigo or ringing sounds in the ears? Do they have chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or arthritis?
  3. When was the last eye checkup? 
  4. Observe the way he/she walks. Do you notice any problem with balance? Can he/she get up from a sitting position easily? Does he/she need walking aid or support? Are their footwear safe (slip or trip resistant)? The advice of a physiotherapist (physical therapist) is often helpful.
  5. Has his/her medications been reviewed recently?   
  6. Walk around the house and make a safety assessment. Is lighting adequate especially at top and bottom of stairs? Are grabs bars installed in the  bathroom? Are the stairs fixed with secured rails? You can get advice about modification of the house from services such as occupational therapy.

I hope you find the above actionable steps helpful.

 

The following resources are useful for further understanding of falls and fall prevention in older adults:

https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/index.html

https://www.ncoa.org/healthy-aging/falls-prevention

https://aging.com/preventing-falls-in-older-adults

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/fall-prevention/art-20047358

 

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