Unexpected accidents can be life changing for older adults, impacting their mobility and physical health. That's why fall prevention in the elderly is so important. Addressing the underlying cause of falls is the right course of action, and a comprehensive fall prevention strategy is required to keep seniors protected and comfortable. How do you enhance protection at home? Let’s find out.
Factors that Contribute to Falls in Seniors
While falls can happen for any reason, there are a number of leading causes in the elderly community.
- Health-Based Factors. These are specific to an individual, and they include muscle weakness, vision, decreased body strength, osteoarthritis, dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, foot problems, and side effects of medications.
- Nutrition and Vitamin Deficiencies. Vitamin D and calcium deficiencies usually affect bone density and muscles, increasing the risk of falls. Other factors include dehydration, malnutrition, and lack of physical activity.
- Environment. Clutter, throw rugs, inappropriate footwear, icy or slippery sidewalks, improper use of walking aids can all lead to unexpected accidents.
- Triggers . Sudden events like hypoglycemia in a person with diabetes can cause dizziness.
What Happens After a Senior Falls?
Geriatric falls can cause a number of different health complications. Find details on all of the most common here.
A bone fracture can either be a partial or complete break of the bone. Fractures are caused by high force impact, stress, or minimal trauma as a result of weak bones. Conditions like osteoporosis, osteopenia, and bone cancer weaken the bones and can increase the risk of falling.
Falls cause traumatic brain injuries like skull fractures, scalp wounds, and concussions. A senior can also experience hematoma or hemorrhage of the brain. Common symptoms include headaches, lightheadedness, mild confusion, nausea, and temporary ringing in the ears.
The form of head injury treatment will depend on the type and severity of the injury. For example, minor falls require pain-relieving medication like acetaminophen (Tylenol) to treat pain and reduce fever, while anti-seizure medication, diuretics, or coma-inducing medicine are given in severe cases.
Seniors can get anxious and depressed after a fall. They may also develop the Sundowners syndrome, especially if they have dementia. Sundowners syndrome symptoms include agitation, confusion, mood swings, aggression, and restlessness.
Keep the seniors active to improve their mood and don’t leave them alone for extended periods.
How to Prevent Falls at Home
Most falls occur at home, and it is imperative to enhance safety and protect seniors from accidents. Here are a few techniques to use.
Physical activity can be used as a single intervention or as part of a multi-factorial approach. Various exercises like Tai Chi, yoga, strength training and balance exercises improve strength and stability.
It is essential to motivate seniors to engage in physical activity, and you can achieve it by enrolling them in a gym or seniors fitness programs to connect with like-minded people.
Nutrition improves muscle mass, builds bone density, provides energy as well as enhances vision. Your diet should be rich in vitamin D, calcium, and protein-rich foods to help strengthen muscles. Ensure you drink enough water to combat dehydration.
Also, lose any extra weight to increase body strength, manage your blood sugar (if you have diabetes), and other lifestyle-related conditions.
Impaired vision is a risk factor for seniors and providing good lighting can help them move with ease, eliminate anxiety and fear. When choosing a good lighting option, consider color, adjustability, and accessibility--the switches should be within reach.
Also, provide ample lighting in accident-prone areas like the bathroom, staircases, and hallways.
Bed rails are the perfect way to stay safe in bed and make transfers easier. ( See Product )
Bed rails provide significant benefits to mature adults, children, and physically disabled individuals. Installing bed rails will keep the seniors safe, prevent falls, help with positioning, and getting in and out of bed. They also provide a sense of security and comfort for restless seniors.
Bed alarms are designed to keep caregivers in touch at all times. ( See Product )
While bed alarms don’t protect against falls, they alert the caregivers of any impending danger and movement in the bed as they are equipped with motion sensors.
Try a floor mat to guard against unexpected falls. ( See Product )
Floor mats, on the other hand, shield or reduce the impact of a fall. They do have alarms and motion sensors to alert your nurse when an accident occurs.
Install Grab Bars and Rails in the Bathroom
Grab bars are easy to install anywhere you need them and provide a sturdy hold. ( See Product )
Bathrooms pose a great danger for seniors, especially those with balance and mobility issues. With grab bars, you can increase stability, maintain independence, and prevent falls. They can be mounted on walls and help seniors get in the tub and use the toilet with ease.
Install a bathtub safety rail for a sturdy hold while transferring into and out of the tub. ( See Product )
Alternatively, you can choose bathtub safety rails which are installed on bathtubs for easy accessibility.
Shower Chairs and Transfer Benches
Shower chairs are essential for seniors and people with disabilities, and they make bathing comfortable and relaxing. These tools improve safety, stability, and support. Most of these support seats have drainage holes and nonslip feet to keep seniors secure.
Shower chairs make cleaning easy, serving as a sturdy support. ( See Product )
When choosing a shower chair, consider the weight capacity, height, size, construction, armrests, and back support. These tools enable secure transfer in and out of the tub.
Most transfer boards, like the Vive transfer bench, need assembling and it can be challenging to install one.
Click here to learn how to assemble the Vive transfer bench.
Reduce Sliding with Nonslip Shower Mats
Anti-slip shower mats are applied to the bathtub or shower to prevent accidents and add security. Most nonslip mats are ergonomically designed to reduce strain and pain. They are available in different shapes, sizes, and colors, but consider your bathtub design when buying.
Four wheeled walkers glide smoothly over all surfaces, while supporting your every step. ( See Product )
Walking aids help to distribute body mass and takes pressure off your feet, improve balance, and stability. The type of walking aid you choose will depend on the purpose--if you are walking outside, the four-wheeled walkers are the best option. But, when using the stairs, it’s better to use the quad canes for support.
Wear Proper Shoes and Socks
Shoes with slippery soles and high heels can make you lose balance, trip or fall. Choose footwear with nonskid soles, laces or Velcro fasteners to avoid tripping. Avoid flip-flops and slippers, especially when walking on icy sidewalks.
Nonslip socks can be worn anywhere to avoid slips and falls at any time of the day. ( See Product )
Wear nonskid socks indoors, like the Vive nonslip socks which have a secure rubber grip soles for a smooth movement on hardwood or tile floors.
Keep stairways clear and install proper lighting on both sides of the stairwell. If possible, have them at elbow height for a secure grip. Also, ensure that each stair step is even.
Enroll in Fall Prevention Programs
You can either choose stand-alone or multi-functional intervention. Regardless of the type of program you choose, make sure it caters to the three components--education, behavioral changes, and exercises.
If in doubt, visit the CDC and the NCOA sites for more information. The organizations have compiled a list of programs available in different locations.
Geriatric Fall Recovery
Your fall recovery time will depend on two things--the severity of the fall and the type of treatment you pursue. For a minor fall, a little rest will go a long way in getting your mobility back. You might, however, need reconstructive surgery in the case of a bone fracture.
How to Get up After a Fall
When a fall happens, try to stay calm and collect your thoughts. If your not severely hurt, follow these steps:
- Find a stationary object like a chair or stool.
- Crawl over to the furniture or the bottom of the staircase
- Hold on to the object with both hands for support
- Get up slowly, sit, and rest for a couple of minutes
If you are unable to get up, call for help by either pressing a medical alarm device or by using the telephone. Having a medical alert bracelet will come in handy in these situations.
Take the Necessary Steps
Falls in seniors are not inevitable, but with proper techniques, you can reduce the impact of a fall. Besides having regular screening, ensure that the house is senior-friendly and comfortable. Also, it is essential to enroll the seniors in a prevention program in your community to learn skills on how to increase balance and strength.