The thought of your loved one falling, especially as they reach older age, can be an all-consuming fear. Our research suggests that with a handful of fall prevention tactics there are proven ways to reduce fall risk. We’ve gathered up five of the most useful tips for reducing fall risk at home and in assisted living communities. We encourage our readers to share these tips with anyone who cares for an individual at risk of falling.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) falling once doubles your chances of falling again. This is why fall prevention knowledge is an imperative component of our educational processes as more and more of our loved ones reach age 65 and up.
Know the Risk Factors
Risk factor is defined as something that increases risk or susceptibility. What we know is that many risk factors can be identified and then changed or modified to aid in the prevention of falls. Below we outline common risk factors, identified by the CDC, and follow that up with simple and often affordable prevention tactics.
-Lower body weakness
-Difficulties with walking and balance
-Foot pain or poor footwear
-Home hazards (e.g.; broken steps, throw rugs or clutter)
-Certain medications including OTC medicine
-Vitamin D deficiency
While this list is not exhaustive, these are some of the most common causes of falls and many of these risk factors can be easily addressed.
Nip Falls in the Bud
If your loved one is suffering from lower body weakness, difficulties with walking or balance, or vision problems we suggest removing tripping hazards in their home or adding balance security measures as an inexpensive prevention tactic. Check out the following list of prevention methods.
1. Increase lighting inside and outside
As we age our vision often diminishes. Adding additional lighting fixtures, ensuring burnt bulbs are replaced immediately and installing bulbs with the highest wattage safe for each fixture can create a much safer environment for older adults.
TIP: If installing lighting fixtures with cords be sure the cords are not a tripping hazard.
2. Remove tripping hazards
Hallway runners, bathroom mats, pet bowls and stacks of magazines are easily removable tripping hazards. They are also often overlooked.
TIP: Wall mounted pet bowls and non-slip rugs/mats designed for older adults are great alternative options worth looking into.
3. Install safety measures
Grab bars in the bathroom, railings in hallways and staircases, the installation of a raised toilet and non-skid treads on steps are a sampling of “living in place” improvements that are quite simple and affordable in reducing the risk of falls.
4. Talk with the Doctor
Not only can your loved one’s doctor help evaluate risk factors they can also assess prescription and OTC medications to determine which ones may increase the risk of falls (think of side effects like dizziness and sleepiness). In some cases these medications can be avoided or replaced with other medications. The doctor may also determine that Vitamin D supplements are necessary.
TIP: Don’t forget to check in with the eye doctor as well and make sure that all eyeglass prescriptions are up to date.
5. Add exercise into the routine
When possible light exercise and stretching can really stave off falls. As we mentioned earlier one of the most common risk factors of falling is lower body weakness. Always check with your doctor before adding a new exercise routine into a loved one’s daily ritual. Some low impact exercises designed for older adults include water aerobics, chair yoga and Tai Chi.