According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading cause of injuries (both fatal and non-fatal) for adults over 65 is falling. Falls can be dangerous to people of any age, but seniors are at particular risk. Older individuals are more likely to break a bone if they fall, and the recovery time for injuries increases as you age. Falling is a real risk for seniors, and preventative measures should be taken to ensure that a fall doesn’t injure you or someone you love. Read on to learn more about what poses a fall risk, and what steps to take to prevent falling.
Why Does Falling Increase as We Age?
Falling seems to increase as we age, and this can be a combination of multiple factors. One big reason is balance. As we age, so does our brain, and the sensory information might not be processed as quickly. This can lead to balance issues, which can lead someone to be afraid to be very active. This in turn leads to even less balance, and creates a vicious cycle that makes it hard to regain your balance. Aging can also result in slower reflexes and less muscle strength, both of which can become steadily worse. Medications can sometimes impede movement, or make you drowsy and uncoordinated. Whatever the cause, as we age we need to be careful to minimize the risks of falling.
What Can You Do?
You can’t stop time, but there are many steps you can take to prevent a fall. Don’t let a fear of falling rule your life, take preventative measures!
Keeping active and moving is one of the best things you can do to prevent a fall. Keeping both your arms and legs strong will help you have stability and strength. If you don’t use your muscles, they don’t function properly, so keep moving! Join an exercise class geared specifically for your age group, take a swimming class that allows you to learn balance in a safe space, or start walking daily. Incorporating specific exercises that improve your balance are extremely helpful, and both tai chi and yoga a great low-impact exercises that can help you stay nimble on your feet. Any exercise you can incorporate into your life will be beneficial.
Make Your Home Safe
Your home is where you spend a majority of your time, and there can be hidden hazards in the home that increase your risk of a fall. Go through your home room by room to make it a safe space:
- Remove Clutter: A cluttered, messy home that is hard to navigate does not lend itself to staying on your feet. Remove clutter, and keep the floor clean to be able to safely move around your home. Clean up items that are not being used, and consider donating them to open up your space.
- Rearrange Furniture: Sometimes, the way furniture is arranged in a room makes it difficult to walk with ease, or to get around sharp table corners. Make the flow of your furniture as conducive to moving around as you can, and you will eliminate the risk of tripping over a chair or catching yourself on the corner of a bookshelf.
- Remove Hazards: Broken or missing floor tiles, uneven floorboards, or carpet that has worn away can all present a fall risk. Look through your home to see if there are uneven transitions from room to room, or any other areas that you could trip over. Repairing damages to your home will go a long way in keeping you safe.
- Stairs: Stairs pose a great fall risk, and it is great if you can eliminate them. If you are looking for a new home, a single level will provide the most safety and ease of accessibility. If moving from your multiple story home is not an option, consider relocating your bedroom or other often used rooms to the main floor. Moving laundry out of the basement, or relocating a home office can help you avoid using the stairs daily.
- Pets: Pets can be great companions, but they also can be a hazard. Cats and dogs who often run around underfoot can pose a trip hazard and lead to a fall or an injury. Be extra careful if you have pets, and watch for them as you move around your home.
- Grab Bars: The bathroom is an area that is often the scene of a bad fall. Slippery surfaces combined with water make for unsteady footing that can lead to a fall. If you have difficulty getting off of the commode, or out of the shower or bath, a grab bar can be a great assistance.
- Outdoors: Even if the inside of your house is free of fall hazards, you want to investigate the outside as well. Cracked driveways, uneven sidewalks, or areas that accumulate ice can be especially dangerous. Fix any fall hazards outside, and consider hiring a service that will remove ice and snow before you need to go outside.
- Lighting: Keeping your home well-lit goes a long way in preventing falls. Keeping nightlights on can help you navigate to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and strategically placed flashlights will ensure you are never without a light.
Consider Your Clothing Review Your Medications
A long, flowy dress or pants may look great, but they can easily get caught underfoot and lead to tripping and falling. Likewise, unstable shoes, like high heels, are harder to balance in and don’t offer the support needed to avoid a fall. Indoors, slippers don’t give much traction and can easily slide on a bathroom or kitchen floor. Choose sturdy shoes that offer great support and soles that grip and don’t slide. Being aware of how your clothing could make you more susceptible to a fall is the first step in choosing the right apparel to be safe.
Review Your Medications
Checking in with your doctor on a regular basis about fall risks, medical conditions, and medications is a great idea. Some medications can affect cognitive functions, or make you excessively sleepy (such as some antidepressants or sedatives). Talking to your doctor about any health conditions that make you dizzy or light-headed can help eliminate these problems that could lead to a fall.
Get Your Vision Tested
Your vision plays a key role in your balance and being able to navigate the world around you. If your vision is impaired, your depth perception can be off, and people with vision loss are almost twice as likely to experience multiple falls. Vision deteriorates as we age, so having periodic vision assessments is good even if you never have had a problem in the past.
Knowing that seniors have an increased risk of falling means that friends, relatives, and neighbors should be on the lookout for any injuries. A fall is scary, but not being able to get up and get help is even worse. Having an emergency monitoring device that can quickly connect you to medical assistance can give you peace of mind if a fall does occur.
Hearing is another one of our senses that can become impaired as we age. Did you know that your hearing is an integral part of your balance, and is important in preventing falls? A recent study found that not only did people with profound hearing loss suffer more falls, but that mild hearing loss resulted in tripling the risk of a fall! This demonstrates just how important hearing is to staying safe and not falling. Hearing helps you be more aware of your environment, more cognizant of potential dangers, and more spatial awareness. Hearing loss makes you have to concentrate more on the sounds around you, and may make you less attentive to where you are walking, or what is underfoot. Hearing loss puts you at risk of a fall, and Factory Direct is here to help! We offer a large selection of hearing aids that can help you become more alert and engaged with your environment, and less likely to fall. Factory Hearing Direct offers amazing hearing solutions at affordable prices to get you the hearing help you need. With brands such as Siemens, Widex, and Oticon, we are able to bring you the best hearing aids delivered directly to your door! Don’t let hearing loss put you at risk of a fall.
So while the risk of a fall increases as we age, there are many steps you can take to ensure that you are solid on your feet. Getting enough exercise, making your home safer, and talking to your doctor are all great measures you can take if you are concerned about falls. And if you are experiencing hearing loss, not only does your fall risk increase, but your quality of life can be diminished as well. Live life to the fullest, and stay safe by preventing falls.