Falls are extremely dangerous to elderly individuals age 70 and over. In fact, seniors who fall are at risk for serious injuries that can lead to death. In comparison, ground-level falls have less risk for fatal injuries in seniors under the age of 70.
Low-level falls are more dangerous to older people and quite common. Falling as a result of tripping on the sidewalk or slipping on a tile floor can lead to substantial injuries in seniors, although such seemingly minor events are mistakenly viewed as inconsequential and even trivial.
An estimated 27,000 seniors experience falls each year. Several variables affect the extent of fall-related injuries. For instance, a range of severe hip and brain injuries can result depending on the body parts that receive greatest impact during the fall.
How do falls impact senior health?
A fallen senior may succumb to a broken hip or a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Most commonly, seniors who fall suffer from fractured bones and soft tissue injuries. Due to age and progressing frailty, older adults may require hospitalization after traumas that at first appear minor.
Hip fractures, for instance, require that the senior be hospitalized. The sedation and surgical procedures performed in a hospital setting traumatize the injured elderly individual even further. Treatment and prognosis are also complicated for seniors who suffer less-serious injuries, like broken bones.
After a hip replacement, the recovering senior is less mobile. Additionally, the elderly individual is weaker and feels more pain. The resulting discomfort may be temporary or long-lasting, leading to the necessity of extra in-home help from professional caregivers or family members.
The course of recovery is bleak for seniors who undergo falls due to age-related causes. Older people are more likely to have pre-existing medical conditions, like heart disease, and be frail, for instance, which places them in a position to heal less quickly than younger, healthier individuals.
Seniors who do recover from both the fall and treatment may do so more slowly. This prolonged recovery period in the hospital exposes these vulnerable individuals to infections, like pneumonia, sepsis and urinary tract infections, that are easily acquired in hospital settings.
What are long-term effects of falling?
The risks for long-term health complications are heightened by falls in the aging population. The majority of seniors who sustain injury after a fall are no longer fully able to care for themselves. Furthermore, elderly individuals are unlikely to resume their usual activities due to fear of falling again.
When seniors reduce their physical activity levels, their frailty increases. A weaker bodily constitution can contribute to events that lead to a subsequent fall. Without even mild exercise, seniors’ muscle strength and bone mass decrease; flexibility and coordination are also reduced.
Complicating health matters further, inactive seniors put themselves at risk for depression, delirium, dementia, and other worsening mental states. The rate of cognitive decline, especially dementia, increases among seniors who fail to engage in regular exercise. Cardiovascular and cognitive health are linked.
Why do seniors fall?
Seniors are at more risk for falls for a myriad of reasons. Even physically robust seniors may experience falls due to poor vision. Eye-related diseases prevent elderly individuals from seeing obstacles and fall hazards, like steps and thresholds. Seniors who refuse to wear eyeglasses are also at risk for falling.
Almost half of all seniors take five prescription drugs per week. Medications prescribed to seniors can have side effects that contribute to falls. Medicine interactions can increase the risk of falls. Plus, supplements and over-the-counter medicines can have powerful side effects.
Unwanted medication side effects can impair a senior’s ability to function. Drowsiness, low blood pressure and dizziness are often responsible for accidents. Common medicines that are to blame for instability and resulting falls include sedatives, anti-depressants, opioids and cardiovascular drugs.
The senior’s home environment is where most falls occur. Poor lighting, clutter in the home and slick floors are culprits. Modifying the home setting helps prevent falls and injuries. Adding lighting, reducing clutter, and adding non-skid rugs are simple and effective fall prevention strategies.
How can falls be prevented?
The elderly and their caregivers have access to many methods to promote safety. Adjusting the home environment should be a starting point. All stairs should feature handrails on both sides and adequate lighting. Add grab bars in the bathroom. Include a transfer bench in the shower for added stability.
Seniors are advised to wear appropriate footwear inside the home and outside of it. Discard worn shoes or improperly fitted ones, as they can lead to falls. Caregivers should ensure that elderly care recipients do not move throughout the home in backless slippers, socks or stockings.
Equally important is exercise. Regular physical activity strengthens muscles, increases flexibility, and improves coordination—conditions that prevent falls and fractures. The elderly may receive an exercise program from medical doctors or physical therapists, and caregivers can help execute the exercise regimens.
It is critical to take steps to prevent your aging loved one from succumbing to an accident. Besides modifying the home, families are encouraged to seek out the help of in-home caregivers from Assisting Hands Home Care. We offer home care services to keep the senior in your life safe.
If medications cause dizziness, our professional caregivers will provide transportation to the senior’s doctor. The physician will review the medications and side effects. Once back at home, our caregivers will provide medication reminders so that the senior takes the right doses at the right time.
Assisting Hands Home Care providers also support care recipients as they move through the home, reduce clutter along walkways and safely transfer seniors to and from the bed, couch, or wheelchair. At night, we keep the nightlights on to facilitate urgent trips to the bathroom.
Fall hazards are everywhere, and seniors are the most vulnerable. Ensure your loved one’s well-being by consulting Assisting Hands Home Care for our invaluable fall prevention services. Our services are available to seniors living in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin areas. Call us for an in-home assessment.