Falls are one of the major causes of disability and death in the elderly. More than a third of elderly people living in the community fall every year in Malaysia.
In the United States, more than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than 50% of them tell their doctor. It is important to take falling seriously, as study has shown that falling once doubles the elderly’s chances of falling again.
However, falls aren’t something inevitable for people with older age, there are many approaches proven to reduce the likelihood of falls among the elderly.
But first, why do the elderly fall?
Here are some of the reasons that may increase the risk of falling among elderly, they are:
Environmental– loose carpets and rugs, bad/slippery flooring, steep stairs, poor lighting, poor fitting foot wears and clothes, lack of safety equipment e.g. grab rails.
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Use of medications such as those for high blood pressure, sedatives and antidepressants - disturb mental and physical functions leading to fall.
Medical Conditions – arthritis, osteoporosis, visual problems, dizziness, dementia, stroke and parkinsonism
Image credit: https://betterhealthkare.com/elderly-fall-prevention/
Nutritional Factors – poor diet, especially lacking in calcium and vitamin D.
Lack of exercise
A healthcare professional can help cut down an elderly’s risk by reducing the fall risk factors listed above.
Not all falls result in injuries. But it is known that one out of five falls does cause a serious injury such as a fractured bone and head injuries. These may make it hard for the elderly to move around, carry out their daily routine or be productive.
Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this further increases their chances of falling.
Due to reduction in mobility and/or fear for falling, the elderly may also experience social isolation, depression and anxiety as a result of less human interactions. Immobility may also lead to pressure sores, muscle damage and potentially lung infections.
Talk openly with the elderly and their doctor about fall risk and prevention.
See a doctor right away if the elderly has fallen or if they seem unsteady.
Show the doctor or pharmacist all of the elderly’s medications, over-the-counter products and supplements. Discuss any side effects such as dizziness.
If the elderly is taking high blood pressure medication, make sure the doctor is aware of it as the fall may be caused by postural hypotension.
Explore nutritional supplements such as vitamin D for the elderly.
Encourage the elderly to stay physically active. Exercise and movement such as Tai Chi can be beneficial for the elderly in preventing falls. Otherwise, you may also enquire a healthcare professional on a suitable exercise.
Get the elderly to check their eyes and feet. This is important because being able to see and walk comfortably can help to prevent falls. You are advised to:
Have their eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year.
Replace eyeglasses as needed.
Have their healthcare provider check their feet once a year.
Discuss proper footwear, and ask whether seeing a foot specialist is advised.
Make the home safe, as most falls happen at home.
Keep floors clutter-free.
Remove small throw rugs, or use double-sided tape to keep the rugs from slipping.
Add grab bars in the bathroom—next to and inside the tub, and next to the toilet
Have handrails and lights installed on all staircases.
Make sure the home has lots of light.
Cover image credit: https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/1414/tips-on-fall-prevention
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