What Creates a Fall Risk for Your Senior Loved Ones?
Falls are the leading cause of death, injury and hospital admissions among the elderly population. One out of every four Americans aged 65 and older fall every year, according to the NCOA. The cost is expected to reach over 67 Billion this year.
Not only are seniors more prone to falling, but they are also more susceptible to fall-related injuries such as a broken hip or head trauma. Understanding why older individuals are at an increased risk can help family caregivers take the proper precautions to keep their loved ones safely on their feet.
Several factors contribute to the fact that seniors fall so much more frequently than younger people.
Decline in Physical Fitness
Many adults tend to become less active as they get older, which can exacerbate the effects of aging. Failure to have even mild exercise on a regular basis results in reduced muscle strength, decreased bone mass, loss of balance and coordination, and reduced flexibility.
Age-related eye diseases can make it difficult, if not impossible, to detect fall hazards, such as steps, wet floors and thresholds. Even if a senior is in top physical condition, failing to see obstacles or changes in ground level can lead to a nasty tumble. Refusing to follow physician recommendations for treatment, including wearing eyeglasses and using necessary low vision equipment can lead to a fall as well.
Age related hearing issues often go hand in hand with vision issues since the eyes and the ears play a large role in mental cognition. Having the hearing of your senior loved one checked regularly and having hearing aids when needed can make a considerable difference in your loved one’s ability to process the world around them
Over the Counter and Prescription Medications
A wide variety of medications can increase a senior’s risk of falling. Side-effects, such as dizziness drowsiness, low blood pressure, and other side effects can all contribute to an accident.
Sedatives, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, opioids and some cardiovascular drugs are the most common culprits. Taking multiple medications increases the risk of medication interactions and falling. Over-the-counter medications and supplements can also have powerful side effects and synergistic effects, too.
Health conditions such as Arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and even Lyme’s disease can cause weakness in the extremities, poor grip strength, balance disorders and cognitive impairment. Peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage, can cause numbness in the feet, making it very difficult for a senior to sense environmental hazards and get around safely.
Surgery Procedures and After Care
Hip replacements, knee replacements and resurfacing surgery as well as other surgeries can leave an elderly person weak, in pain and less mobile than they were before the procedure. Even with post-operative rehab and physical therapy, healing from a surgical procedure can create a fall risk for seniors.
Household & Environmental Hazards
The majority of falls for the elderly population occur in or around the home. Environmental factors such as poor lighting, clutter, areas of disrepair, loose carpets, slick floors and lack of safety equipment can create a fall risk in the home of the senior
Everyday habits and Behavior Hazards.
A person’s fall risk is influenced by their habits and behaviors. This includes the types of everyday activities they do, the level of physical demand these activities require, and their willingness and ability to adapt and change their routine for safety.
For example, laundry is an everyday daily activity for many people, but it can involve a great deal of exertion for a senior. This increases risk of falling, but if they also refuse to wear secure, non-skid footwear or change how dirty laundry is stored, the risk of falling increases.
Failure to change or modify behaviors to account for new or increasing difficulties is a serious, yet common, contributing factor for falls in older individuals.
Contributing Factors to the Risk of Falling
A fall rarely occurs due to only one of the reasons above. When multiple factors combine, it can lead to serious, even life-threatening injury. Even if a loved one is lucky to escape a fall uninjured, the experience can leave them shaken. Fear of falling again can cause them to withdraw and become more sedentary, which often leads to further physical and even mental decline.