Falling is a serious issue for older adults’ health and safety. One in four people over age 65 fall each year, causing more than three million emergency room visits and injuries ranging from head trauma to fractures. To make matters worse, many falls go unreported because seniors are embarrassed or afraid they might lose their independence.
It’s important for seniors, caregivers, and doctors to communicate about fall risk, and identify ways to reduce that risk. To keep older adults safe and independent, look out for these warning signs:
- Difficulty seeing. Dim lighting can increase fall risk. Make sure lights in the home are bright enough, especially for seniors who may already have eye health problems. Regular eye exams are important to catch vision problems early, which can prevent falls later.
- Tripping hazards. Organize the home to make sure there are no cluttered spaces, loose rugs, electrical cords, or furniture in the middle of the room. Taking these steps to clear away obstacles that may cause a senior to trip can significantly lower risk of a fall.
- Lack of supportive devices in the home. Consider installing grab bars, hand rails, and other support infrastructure around the house to help seniors stay independent. However, make sure older adults know how to use assistive devices correctly, or these tools could actually increase a senior’s chance of falling.
- Too many prescription medications. Studies have shown that people who take more than five medications at a time are 22 percent more likely to fall. Ask your loved one’s doctor about all prescribed medications and potential side-effects, like dizziness, confusion, and weakness.
- Chronic health conditions. Certain health conditions may cause falls, including Parkinson’s disease, neuropathy, incontinence, stroke, and arthritis. If you or your loved one has or more of these conditions, consult a doctor for advice on how to take special precautions against falling.
- Frailty and low physical activity. Frailty is a major cause of falls for older adults. The good news is that exercise can help. In fact, clinical exercise at InnovAge PACE centers has been shown to improve participants’ mobility, balance, and overall health over time.
programs can also help prevent falls with a team of doctors, physical therapists, social workers, and other specialists who work together to assess a senior’s risk and create a personalized care plan to maintain their health and independence.