Falls in the elderly occur in 30% of the population over 65 years old and are the leading cause of fatal and non fatal injuries. Falls can affect seniors in many ways. If a senior falls and is injured, their ability to live independently significantly decreases with a significantly higher incidence of nursing home placement. The incidence of falls rises steadily from middle age and peaks in persons older than 80 years. Between 20 and 30 percent of older adults who fall suffer serious injuries such as hip fractures and head trauma. Other injuries that may occur include spine and wrist fractures. Most falls have multiple causes. Risk factors for falls include muscle weakness, use of four or more prescription medications, arthritis, depression, age older than 80 years, and impairments in gait, balance, vision, and activities of daily living. Lower extremity muscle weakness is a significant risk factor for falls, as well as, the use of four or more medications have been strongly associated with an increased risk of falls. Sixty percent of elderly falls occur in the home. Safe proofing your home can help decrease this number.
Some helpful tips to decrease the incidence of falls in the home include cleaning up spills in the kitchen as they occur, do not store objects above a hands reach, and use a step stool with rails when needed. Pick up any throw rugs around the house, make ample space to walk between furniture, and find a way to arrange your furniture so that the extension cords are out of the way. A night light in the bathroom that is on at all times as well as installing handicap railing in the bathtub or shower and placing a non skid mat in the bathtub or shower will help avoid falls. When using stairs, make sure the stairway is clear of clutter and have handrails installed on both sides of the steps. Pets manage to get under our feet and cause a fall. Be aware of where your pet is and be careful when visiting others who have pets too.
One of the best ways to prevent falls in the elderly is exercise. A program that includes strengthening exercises for the lower extremities as well as a balance program can significantly decrease the risk of falls. An exercise program averaging two classes per week can provide the basis for fall prevention in healthy elderly persons living at home. A combination of an exercise program with vision management and home hazard management can also significantly reduce falls. Preventing falls can help maintain a healthier and more independent lifestyle. A lifestyle that will reduce the dependence of assisted care at the home or nursing home placement of the elderly.