The fastest growing segment of our population is the 85 and over age group. Many seniors want to remain in the comfort and security of their own homes. This means that many of us have some responsibility for caring for elderly parents, relatives, friends and neighbors. One of the greatest fears among senior citizens is the fear of falling. Fear of falling leads to lost confidence and increased inactivity. This is not an irrational fear as falling is a primary catalyst for hospital admissions among seniors. Helping seniors reduce their risk of falling is one of the most positive things that we can do for seniors. Consider these startling statistics:
– Falls are responsible for 40% of the admissions to nursing homes.
– 70% of accidental deaths in people over 75 years of age are caused by falls.
– One in three older adults living at home falls each year (this considers only those falls that result in reported medical care).
– Injuries from falls result in medical costs of $70 billion each year.
Internal and External Factors Lead to Falls
Falls are caused by internal as well as external factors. Internal factors such as slowed reflexes, balance disorders, weakness, muscle tightness, reduced flexibility, cognitive impairments, low blood pressure and visual deficits all contribute to the risk of falling. Controllable external factors including effects of medications, poor lighting, cluttered living spaces, lack of handrails, unstable chairs and rugs that aren’t secured are just some of the factors that can lead to a devastating fall. Osteoporosis can significantly increase the chances of serious injury resulting from a fall.
Most Falls Can Be Prevented
Some of the actions that will help reduce the risk of falling include:
– Tell the healthcare provider if a fall has occurred in the last year and if so the circumstances of the fall.
– Make sure doctors and pharmacists are aware of all medications being taken.
– Tell the healthcare provider if any weakness in the legs or any other problems with the legs or feet are experienced.
– Make sure doctors are aware of any vision or hearing loss.
– Perform a complete home safety inspection to assess overall safety as well as things such as lighting, flooring and furniture placement.
– Obtain in-home help for tasks that have become dangerous and difficult.
Consider Outside Help
Many seniors can remain safely in their own homes with a little bit of help. Many times an outside agency can provide a caregiver who will go to the senior’s home and help complete tasks that are difficult for the senior to perform. Chores such as light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, assistance with bathing and grooming, medication reminders and incidental transportation are just some of the services a caregiver can provide. The result is a happier senior, in a safer environment with less stress on the family. The bottom line is that seniors need to stay connected and continue to do what they like to do, for as long as possible. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to keep seniors on their feet by avoiding falls.
-The Senior Choice