Tripping and falling is a dangerous accident for anyone, but the risks and consequences of a fall increase greatly as we get older. Falls are the leading cause of injury and injury-related deaths in people over the age of 65. As of 2018, the fall-related death rate was 64 deaths per 100,000 older adults and increasing. Falls are one of the biggest threats that elderly adults face to their independence and ability to stay living in their home, but falls are not an inevitable part of aging! There are many ways to reduce the risk of a fall and the severity of injury in the event that a fall were to occur.
What factors increase the risk of falls at home?
It’s important to recognize the health conditions and natural signs of aging, known as internal factors, that can increase the risk of experiencing a fall. Natural changes that occur with age like reduced vision and hearing, reduced muscle strength, and decreased bone density all tend to occur with age, and they can not only increase the risk of a fall, but also increase the severity of a fall-related injury. Health conditions that are associated with older age like Arthritis, Heart Disease, and Vertigo are conditions that can increase a person’s fall risk. Medications can also affect a person’s fall risk because certain medications or combinations of medications can cause dizziness and/or drowsiness. A person is more likely to experience a fall if they are taking four or more medications at one time or if there has been a change in their medications within the past two weeks as their body adjusts.
There are also environmental situations that impact a person’s fall risk, these are known as external factors. These external factors can be present in a person’s home, their neighborhood, and anywhere they may travel during the day.
Internal factors associated with increased fall risk:
- Vision and/or hearing changes
- Arthritis or other pain-causing conditions
- Osteoporosis or other chronic debilitating diseases
- Heart Disease
- Respiratory Disease
- Urinary or Bowel Incontinence
- Use of Supplementary Oxygen
- History of Falls
External factors that increase an older person’s risk of fall include:
- Wet or cluttered floorways and pathways
- Type of flooring (tile, glossed concrete, linoleum, etc.)
- Type of footwear being worn
- Wrinkled/folded rugs and carpets
- Distance to the bathroom
- Lack of grab bars in the bathroom
- Poor lighting indoors and outdoors
- Lack of guide railing on staircases and throughout the home
- Incorrect bed, chair, toilet, and bath/shower height
- Faulty or damaged assistive devices - such as broken or missing pieces on a walker/cane, broken brakes/footrests on wheelchairs
So, what tips and recommendations are there to reduce the risk of falls at home?
Preventing falls from ever happening is impossible, but there are many tips and strategies that can greatly reduce the risk of a fall and the severity of injury from a fall. It is crucial to educate ourselves, our loved ones, and any staff involved in routine care about the risks and dangers that falls impose, and the importance of taking precautions to prevent them. Evaluating the conditions of an older person’s home is an important first step in working towards fall prevention. You can evaluate the home yourself, or if you can hire an expert in this topic perform an evaluation. Home Care, Recharged has Registered Nurses that are highly qualified and legally authorized to perform a home safety assessment and make suggestions to reduce fall risk.
Fall prevention tips and recommendations for external factors:
- Keep floors and pathways clean and dry, avoid cluttering along walls in high traffic zones like hallways.
- Replace slick flooring like tile, linoleum, and gloss-coated concrete with carpet or lay rugs down in these areas to offer traction when walking.
- Make sure that rugs are laid flat and use rug tapes or some kind of adhesive to keep corners down and reduce the risk of tripping.
- Apply non-slip mats to shower and bathtub floors - these areas are one of the most infamous locations where falls occur, it is crucial to apply added traction to these slippery surfaces.
- Install sturdy banisters and railing along both sides of any indoor and outdoor staircases, install guide railing along the walls of long hallways and large rooms.
- Install bathroom specific grab bars around toilets, bathtubs, and showers.
- Ensure there is adequate lighting throughout the home. Use bright, long lasting light bulbs and make sure all rooms and hallways are thoroughly lit to provide maximum visibility to the resident.
- Keep regularly used supplies (like cooking utensils, reading material, anything used often) in easy-to-reach locations like low cabinets, shelves, and drawers. Avoid putting these kinds of things in hard-to-reach places like high shelves or on top of cabinets.
- Avoid walking in slippers, sandals, socks, stockings, or any kind of slick or loose footwear. When walking from one place to another, it is much safer to wear snug, slip-resistant shoes or specialized socks with grips on the bottoms (like hospital socks).
- Avoid any suspected slippery surfaces - wet grass, icy steps, wet or recently mopped floors, wet sidewalks, etc.
- Install adequate amounts of outdoor lighting, use bright, long lasting bulbs - specifically at entry/exit doorways, anywhere stairs or steps are located, and anywhere the resident frequently spends time at.
- Regularly sprinkle salt or kitty litter walkways during winter months to prevent ice from forming
- Check assistive devices like walkers, canes, and wheelchairs for regular maintenance - broken, worn, or missing parts can lead to serious fall injuries so it is important to give the device a thorough check at least once a week and in the event that there is a change in how the device feels or sounds during operation, it is best to have it inspected by an expert immediately and get a new one if it is recommended.
Fall prevention tips and recommendations for internal factors:
- Staying active is key to a long and healthy life! Keeping the core, back, and leg muscles are vital to maintain good balance and mobility.
- Be mindful of medications and when they are taken. Some medications can cause dizziness/drowsiness when taken together. Ask your doctor about medication interactions and adjust routine accordingly.
- Having regular hearing and vision checks are important to ensure prescriptions are up to date and accurate. As we age, these two senses tend to rapidly change. If they aren’t correct, the potential of losing balance or not seeing something on the floor when walking can result in serious injury.
- Maintain a healthy diet with plenty of Calcium and Vitamin D to keep bones strong and reduce the risk of fractures in the event of a fall.
- Don’t rush! It is better to be slow and steady than to try to rush around and accidentally trip and fall.
- Be mindful of alcohol consumption - alcohol delays reflexes and reaction time, can make a person dizzy/drowsy, and could have interactions with medications that increase a person’s fall risk.
Home Care, Recharged can provide home safety assessments and help you create a comprehensive plan to reduce the risk of falls in your, or your loved ones, home. Our professional and compassionate team is ready to help you navigate the next steps towards comfort and safety. Call us at 352-565-7155 for guidance and assistance in getting you Recharged at home!
Created by: Bailey