Fall Prevention Tips for Seniors

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August 9, 2023

Every year falls at home affect countless seniors, leading to injuries, hospitalizations, and a loss of independence. In fact, about 36 million falls are reported among seniors each year, which leads to more than 32,000 deaths [1]. One can take many proactive measures to prevent falls, especially within the familiar setting of their home.

Understanding the Impacts of Falls

Falls are not just accidents that occasionally happen with no repercussions; they can have serious consequences, particularly for older adults. Falls often lead to injuries resulting in increased chronic pain, limited mobility, and a loss of a sense of independence for seniors. The fear of falling can also cause:

  • Physical injuries: Falls can result in various physical injuries, ranging from minor bruises and cuts to more severe ailments such as fractures, sprains, and head trauma. Seniors who experience fractures, particularly hip fractures, often require hospitalization and may face long-term implications on overall health. Over 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling [2]—think of how many injuries can be prevented by taking preventative measures against falling!
  • Emotional and psychological effects: Falls can take a toll on seniors’ emotional well-being, causing fear and anxiety related to falling again. This can lead to a lack of confidence, reduced self-esteem, and a heightened state of vulnerability. Not only can these feelings be distressing, but they can restrict the daily activities and social interactions of seniors, which can lead to a decline in their overall quality of life. 
  • Loss of independence: Many seniors wish to maintain a sense of independence, as it factors into their sense of confidence and autonomy. However, falls can make independence hard to maintain. When injuries related to falls are developed, seniors may require assistance with daily activities. They may need help from loved ones, mobility aids, and even long-term care. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with seniors relying on assistance from caregivers, the loss of independence may be emotionally challenging for seniors. These challenges may lead to feelings of frustration, helplessness, and a sense of burden on loved ones. 
  • Financial struggles: Falls often need medical intervention, including visits to the emergency room, hospital stays, and rehabilitation services. These services can be financially demanding on seniors and their families, especially those who are already struggling financially. 

Common Fall Hazards at Home

One of the first steps in fall prevention for seniors is the identification of potential hazards within the home environment. You can start by considering areas where falls commonly occur, like staircases, bathrooms, and poorly lit areas. Also take into account slippery surfaces, loose rugs, or floors that are cluttered. By being aware of these hazards, we can then take necessary precautions to mitigate them. Here are some tips on modifying your home environment into one that is safer:

  • Install adequate lighting. Ensure that your home is well-lit by installing adequate lighting, especially in hallways, staircases, and entryways. Replace dim lightbulbs with brighter lighting options. This will decrease the chance of falls due to not being able to properly see surroundings. 
  • Clear clutter and maintain a tidy living space. Remove any unnecessary items or obstacles, especially on the floor. Keep your floors clear of highly-trip-able items, like loose wires and cords. 
  • Secure loose flooring. Loose carpets and rugs are common culprits for falls. Secure these with hefty double-sided tape. Replace any uneven or damaged flooring as soon as possible. 
  • Install handrails and grab bars. Using handrails on both sides of staircases and grab bars in bathrooms near toilets, showers, and bathtubs reduces the risk of falls in these areas. These supportive fixtures should be used each time. 
  • Utilize non-slip mats. Placing non-slip mats or grip liners underneath rugs will help prevent them from slipping. You can also consider removing rugs altogether, especially in areas in which you walk a lot. 

Other Tips for Preventing Falls

  • Exercise regularly. Engaging in regular exercise and physical activities can help improve balance, strength, and flexibility. These skills reduce the likelihood of falls [3]. Exercises like strength and resistance training target major muscle groups to help build strength and improve stability. Balance and coordination exercises, like Tai Chi or yoga, can enhance equilibrium and body awareness. These activities focus on maintaining balance while performing controlled movements. Finally, walking and aerobic activities, like swimming or cycling, can help improve cardiovascular health and overall fitness. 
  • Review and manage medications. Certain medications have side effects like dizziness, drowsiness, or impaired balance, which can increase the risk of falls. To mitigate this, regularly review your medications and their side effects with your senior primary care provider. Always follow prescribed guidelines for taking these medications, and avoid skipping doses or self-adjusting, as this can increase the chance of side effects occurring. If you experience any side effects, contact your senior-focused primary care provider immediately. 
  • Get regular vision and hearing checks. Impaired vision and hearing can significantly increase the risk of falls. To combat this, schedule regular vision and hearing exams. Address any vision or hearing changes at these exams. 
  • Seek support. Open communication with your primary care provider is vital for fall prevention. They can help provide guidance, assess your particular risks, and offer personal advice. Always let your doctor in on any past falls or near-fall experiences, so they can conduct a thorough evaluation. Describe your living situation to them, including any fall hazards you have identified. Your primary care provider can then offer additional recommendations and resources for home modifications.

In conclusion, preventing falls at home is crucial for senior safety at home. By recognizing the impacts of falls, both physical and emotional, seniors can gain a deeper understanding of why fall prevention is of utmost importance. When it comes to fall preventionfor seniors, every effort counts. From simple modifications to more significant lifestyle adjustments, each step taken toward creating a safer environment makes a difference. Contact Greater Good Health today or find a primary care clinic near you to speak with a provider about falls.