Fall Prevention For Your Home
One-third of adults over the age of 65 fall every year, and half of adults over the age of 80 fall every year. For older adults, it is one of the most serious health risks and a significant cause of disability.
Marissa Black, MD, with EvergreenHealth Geriatric Care shares how to define and categorize a fall, how common they are in the senior community and most importantly, how you can limit your risk.
What are falls?
A fall is any action during which you come to the ground or a lower level that isn't caused by the loss of consciousness, seizure stroke or an overwhelming environmental hazard.
These falls are typically caused by a variety of risk factors that can include medications, home safety or even muscular strength.
Am I at risk for falls?
Because falls are caused by a variety of factors, there is a lot that goes into building your risk profile.
Risk factors fall into two categories: internal and external.
Internal factors include:
- Vision loss
- Urinary incontinence
- Cognitive impairment
- Weakness in motor skills
- Balance and gait
Additionally, conditions like osteoarthritis or osteoporosis, which affect the cartilage in your joints and cause your bones to become brittle and weak, respectively. Medications can also cause imbalance, cognitive impairment and weakness.
External factors include:
- Clutter in the home
- Uneven or slippery flooring
- Low or no lighting
This includes being mindful if you are in an unfamiliar location, like a hotel room or if you're staying at a family member's house. If you are staying in a new place, ensure you take account of possible hazards and ensure there is adequate lighting whenever you move about the space.
Dr. Black shares you are at high risk for falls is if you fall two or more times in a year, have had an injurious fall or are taking four or more medications.
How do I keep from falling?
There are a number of ways you can help prevent yourself from falling. Dr. Black's first suggestion is to seek advice from your doctor, who can help characterize you as high-risk or low risk. Your doctor will take into account any history you've had with falls, which includes your medical history and medications.
Exercise is also a great way to decrease your risk of falling since strengthening your muscles can help with balance and posture.
Installing equipment can also improve high-risk places around your house. For instance, you can install grab bars in the bathroom, a shower chair and nightlights in your hallway.
If you are at a higher risk of falling, Dr. Black advises that you invest in a safety alert system that is with you at all times so if you do fall, you're able to get the proper aid right away.
If you begin to feel your balance is wavering or find yourself fearing falls more, consult your doctor.