According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the greatest cause of injury among the senior population. Even when serious injuries such as muscle sprains or bone fractures don’t occur, the fear of falling again can do just as much damage. Because it could happen anytime, anywhere, regardless of age or health, it’s important for seniors to understand what may increase their risk and what steps they can take to prevent a fall from happening.
Diane Reier, Lifestyle Specialist at Aspired Living®, a senior living community in Prospect Heights, IL, explains that fall prevention awareness is the greatest way to help older adults decrease their risk of fall-related injuries. “One in every three Americans age 65 and older fall every year,” says Reier. “These often result in physical injuries, but they almost always result in anxiety, fear or feelings of vulnerability. The negative consequences of these emotions, especially the fear of falling again, have the potential to lead to decreased physical activity and muscle weakness, as well as social isolation if a person feels uncomfortable leaving the house. It’s not always easy for seniors to recover physically and emotionally from a fall. That’s why we do all we can to help them stay strong and standing in order to prevent falls from happening.”
Major Risks of Falling Among Seniors
For older adults, experiencing a fall could point to something as simple as a cluttered floor or indicate a problem as serious as inner-ear issues or arthritis. The major causes of falls include, but aren’t limited to:
- Tripping hazards
- Improper footwear
- Poor vision or bad lighting
- Muscle weakness or joint pain
- Dizziness or balance problems due to a health condition or medication
Some of these risks occur naturally with age and cannot always be avoided. Even the most physically fit, agile and prudent person might trip on the stairs. However, there are still many things you can do to avoid a fall and, if one does occur, prevent a serious injury.
What You Can Do to Stay Standing
With the high prevalence of falls in seniors, experts on aging continue to stress important ways for older adults and their families to take charge of their health and increase their personal safety. Health experts such as those at the Mayo Clinic and the National Council on Aging offer several ideas to decrease the chance of suffering a fall-related injury:
1. See the Doctor – Talk to your doctor about your risk of falling. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis, or medications taken for these conditions may cause dizziness or mobility limitations. Some drug combinations and side effects can also interfere with balance.
Depending on your mobility, your doctor might suggest seeing a physical or occupational therapist to help with your gait and range of motion. This might be an ideal option if you aren’t able to exercise on your own.
It’s also important to visit the eye doctor regularly, as vision changes commonly occur with age. Make sure to always wear your glasses if you need them and ensure your prescription is up-to-date.
2. Stay Active – The best thing anyone can do to avoid a fall is to stay physically active. Improving flexibility and strengthening leg and core muscles are great ways to improve balance, and in turn make it easier to keep yourself from falling when you stand up or trip. You could join an exercise class designed especially for seniors, or find a group of friends who would like to exercise together. Yoga, tai chi and light strength training are good options. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor before starting any kind of new exercises.
3. Remove Hazards at Home – Loose rugs, carpet or floorboards can be dangerous for those who aren’t as agile as they used to be. Fix trouble areas and remove or secure throw rugs with non-slip backing. Try to keep clutter from building up on the floors, and rearrange the furniture so rooms are easy to navigate. Make sure frequently used items, such as cooking tools or the vacuum cleaner, are easy to reach and don’t require rummaging through closets or climbing on a step stool.
4. Keep Areas Well Lit – Especially if poor or low vision is a problem, make sure all areas of your home are well lit at night. Install nightlights in the hallways and bathroom, and keep a lamp near your bedside. If you may need to go up and down stairs after dark, be sure to always turn on a light.
5. Consider Your Footwear – Most falls occur when someone is wearing heels, loose slippers or socks. You can help to avoid a fall by selecting a sensible pair of shoes to wear around the house. Look for shoes with good traction, snugly fitting slippers with rubber soles and warm socks with rubber grips on the bottom.
6. Learn About Assistive Devices – If mobility is an issue, your doctor might suggest you use a cane or walker to get around. Make sure your device is adjusted to your height and consider other household modifications that could keep you steady. Think about installing grab bars and non-slip mats in the shower, extra handrails along stairs or non-slip treads on slippery surfaces, such as outdoor steps.
7. Watch for Signs of Weakness – Since many changes that come with age occur gradually, you may not even notice that you have trouble standing up or that you’ve started to instinctively hold on to the wall as you’re walking. Pay attention to any physical changes that could make you more vulnerable to falling (such as dizzy spells, muscles cramps, etc.) and address these issues with your doctor.
Your Resource for Senior Living Expertise
If you could use more information about fall prevention or any other senior living and lifestyle topics, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights. Specializing in active Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care services, the community and its associates are well trained to answer your questions.
“Staying active and staying safe frequently go hand-in-hand for seniors,” shares Reier. “There’s so much you can do on your own to decrease your risks of injury or harm. Residents at Aspired Living® experience an array of opportunities to stay physically and mentally active every day, from classes in our on-site fitness center to guest lectures and resident-led clubs. There are no limits to what’s possible with Pathway’s VIVA!℠ programming and the inspiration of our residents. We work together to make sure we all live engaging, healthy lifestyles.”
To learn more about the services and care available at Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights, give us a call or stop by our community today!
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If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also welcome you to share any caregiving insights or experiences in our comments section.
Live Well. Age Well. Be Well.
Offering Independent, Assisted Living and A Knew Day Memory Support, Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights is a distinctive senior living community designed to offer seniors residing in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs area a fresh alternative to “typical” senior living communities.
Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights provides residents with the ideal balance of personalized support, dignified privacy and enhanced independence complemented by luxurious amenities and our life-enriching, award-winning VIVA!SM programming by Pathway to Living®.
Managed by Pathway to Living®, an innovator in senior living, Aspired Living® offers the choice of a private studio or a one- or two-bedroom apartment and the beauty of a brand new community, stunningly appointed and decorated for unsurpassed comfort and style by the award-winning senior living design firm, Thoma-Holec Design, Inc.
For more information, please call Diane at 847-243-6920.
Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.