MediLodge Wellness: Preventing Falls in the Elderly

Written by K.R. Tremblay and C.E. Barber MediLodge of Port Huron

 

Here are a few quick facts about falling in the elderly:

  • The risk of falling increases with age and is greater for women than for men.
  • Two thirds of those experience a fall will fall again with six months.
  • A decrease in bone density contributes to falls and resultant injuries.
  • Failure to exercise regularly results in poor muscle tone, decreased strength, and loss of bone mass and flexibility.
  • At least one third of all falls in the elderly involve environmental hazards.

 

Causes and Prevention:

The causes of falls are known as “risk factors.”  Many of these risk factors are preventable.  As obvious as it may sound, a lack of knowledge about risk factors and how to prevent them contributes to many falls.  Some people believe that falls are a normal part of aging and are not preventable.  Lack of knowledge leads to lack of preventative action, resulting in falls.

 

Here is a list of risk factors that contribute to falls:

  • Osteoporosis:  Osteoporosis is a condition wherein bones become more porous, less resident to stress, and more prone to fractures.  Eating calcium rich foods such as milk, yogurt, fish/shellfish, broccoli, soybeans, collards, tofu, and almonds help replenish the body’s need for calcium. Vitamin D enhances the absorption of calcium. Weight-bearing exercises are also beneficial.St Hts New Therapy
  • Lack of Physical Activity:  Failure to exercise regularly results in poor muscle tone, decreased strength, and loss of bone mass and flexibility.  Even simple wheelchair exercises can help you keep your joints flexible and strong. Take time to recover balance when rising from chair or bed.  Keep items within reach to minimize overextending and losing your balance.
  • Impaired Vision:  Cataracts and glaucoma alter older people’s depth perception, visual acuity, peripheral vision, and susceptibility to glare.  Add contrasting color strips to first and last steps to identify depth and changes of level.  Clean glasses often to improve visibility.
  • Medications:  People that take multiple medications are at greater risk for falls. Sedatives, antidepressants, and anti-psychotic medications can contribute to falls by reducing mental alertness, worsening balance/gait, and effecting blood pressures.  Know the common side effects of your medications.  Talk with your physician about ways to reduce your chances of falling by reviewing medications.
  • Environmental Hazards:  The most common hazard for falls is tripping over objects on the floor.  Poor lighting, loose rugs/bed covers, lack of grab bars, and unstable furniture contribute to the risk for falls.  A walk through of your home by the occupational therapist prior to discharge will help identify fall hazards and get your home safe for your return.  A night light along the path to the bathroom can also be useful.

 

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