Fall Prevention and How to Get Through the Fear of Falling
The Risks of Falling
Falling happens in everyone’s life. Whether you are a kid at the playground or an adult walking the slippery winter streets, all of us have at least fallen once in our life. Even though falling may be a normal life event, it can cause injury and, in some cases, even death. As one ages, falling becomes more dangerous. Our bones are weaker, coordination deteriorates, and our balance can be affected. Falls can lead to many health complications either directly or indirectly.
Whether at home or in a hospital, falls can be deadly. According to the World Health Organization, Falls are the second leading cause of accidental death worldwide. In Seniors over 65, falls account for 87% of all fractures and two-thirds of those who fall will do so again within six months.
This can lead to (re)admittance to hospitals where the stay is twice as long as older patients admitted for other reasons. One-fourth of seniors that suffer hip fractures from a fall will die within six months of the injury. Though many falls do not result in injuries, 47% of previously non-injured seniors that do fall cannot get up without assistance. This period spent immobilized affects an older person’s health whether it’s broken bones, muscle damage, brain injuries or other complications related to dehydration, pressure sores or hypothermia.
Falls, regardless of injury, can cause a lot of indirect consequences when it comes to quality of life. After a fall has occurred, fear of falling again becomes a typical response in most seniors. As a result, daily activities, social engagements and exercise are often reduced because of a fall. Indirectly, this can lead to a decline in physicality, lead to depression, social isolation and feelings of helplessness. Of most importance, the result of a fall can lead to a reduction or loss of independent living.
What Causes Falls
As researched by Alberta Health Services, falls can happen for many reasons. Identifying the risk factors of a fall can lead to their prevention. Once a risk factor can be changed or modified, the risk of falls will be severely decreased.
- Lower body weakness/mobility issues
- Vitamin D/not enough Vitamin in your system
- Use of certain medications (sedatives, antidepressants or some over the counter medicines can affect balance and coordination)
- Vision Issues
- Home Hazards (rugs, steps, clutter, poor lighting)
- Physical activity (excessive reaching, bending)
- Winter conditions (ice, snow, cold)
- Chronic health conditions (heart disease, dementia, low blood pressure, dizziness)
- Balance related illnesses (labyrinthitis)
The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chances of a fall. Be vigilant in identifying some of these risk factors in your life to prevent a future fall. If you need help, have a healthcare professional, family member or home care aid help you identify and reduce the risk factors mentioned above.
Contrary to popular belief, falls can be completely prevented as long as the right steps are taken. Though some solutions are quick and easy to implement, others can involve permanent changes in lifestyle. Remember, even adopting the simplest of methods of prevention can help decrease the risk of falling. In turn, this will allow for an increase in mobility, independence and overall quality of life.
Talk to your doctor
- Its never to late to talk to your doctor about fall prevention. Doctors, as well as other healthcare providers can help you evaluate your risk of falling. Talk with them about specific solutions!
- If you have fallen in the past, your doctor will be able to help you avoid falls in the future.
Review your medications
- If your medications cause dizziness, make you sleepy or affect your balance, you might want to review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist.
- If you need to take your medication, make sure to reduce mobility to prevent falls from medication side effects.
Take Vitamin D
- As researched by Alberta Health Services, Adults (19-50) need 400-1000 IU (international units) of Vitamin D everyday whereas Adults over 50 need 1000-2000 IU.
- Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and keep your muscles strong! Especially in the winter months where there is a lack of sun, taking Vitamin D can help in reducing depression and other mental health issues.
- Though you can take Vitamin D in pills, its often easier to get vitamin D from natural sources. Milk, Salmon, and sun exposure (when available) can increase your body’s dosage of Vitamin D.
- Since vitamin D does come with certain risks, ask a healthcare professional if Vitamin D is right for you.
- Focussing on exercise that strengthens your legs, core and balance can lead to better mobility and reduce risk of falling.
- Simple Tai Chi, Yoga and strength training are all great starting points for exercise.
- Remember, its okay to take things slow, don’t over exert yourself. Just because you may not be able to do a certain exercise it does not mean you are weak! Everyone is different, do exercises and fitness programs that are right for you (see resources below)!
- Remember, excess bending or reaching can cause a fall as well! If you need help, ask for it instead of doing the work yourself.
- As obvious as it may seem, remember to look up while walking! Even though watching your feet move is important, be sure to look where you are going to avoid any dangers.
Have Your Vision/Hearing Checked
- Even if you think you have healthy eyes or have your eyeglass prescription up to date, your vision can change fast as you grow older.
- Getting your eyes checked more regularly is key to fall prevention.
- As most optometrists recommend, getting your eyes checked annually is the best practice in keeping your eyes healthy and your falls minimal.
- Dizziness and loss of balance can also occur through hearing loss. Get your hearing checked as well to prevent future problems.
Make Your Home Safer
- Whether its big or small, reducing hazards in your home is one of the best steps you can take to reduce your risk of falling.
- Get rid of things you can trip over. From carpets, to dog toys, to electrical cords, organizing or getting rid of tripping hazards can prevent a nasty fall.
- Add grab bars/handrails to stairs, bathtubs or showers. Being able to grab a hold of something while mobile can increase your balance and hold you upright if you were to fall. Though it might be an investment, it can seriously help you in the long run.
- Brighten up your house with brighter lights. Most falls occur due to a home’s poor lighting causing reduced vision. Installing bright LED bulbs or increasing the amount of lights in your home can remedy the issue. Especially in the winter months when light is reduced, brightening up your home could prevent an easy fall.
Evaluate Your Clothing
- If you are wearing loose fitting clothing, slippers or bathrobes, you should maybe reconsider your clothing.
- Try to wear to wear fitted clothes, and sneakers to maximize grip and reduce snags or slips.
Being Winter Aware
- Winter can be a tough time to travel due to snow, ice and the cold.
- When the roads are bad and the sidewalk is icy, reduce time outside the house.
- Staying in for a snow day is okay every now and then. But if you really need to travel, reduce your travel time or ask someone for a ride (Senior Homecare by Angels is happy to provide this service!).
- Be cognizant of ice, snow and the cold to make sure a dangerous fall doesn’t occur.
Falls can happen to anyone but with the right care and right practices in mind, this can be highly reduced. Senior Homecare by Angels can identify points of interest and vulnerability in everyday life and provide home care solutions – making it easier to navigate through one’s home. We can show you ways to prevent falls during our free in-home consultation process too!
Get all the information you need to help someone you love.
Senior Homecare by Angels Fall Prevention Guide https://www.seniorhomecarebyangels.com/images/brochures/CANADAfallprevent.pdf
Exercises for Seniors to Increase Strength and Balance
Important Facts About Falls from the CDC
How to Prevent Falls from Alberta Health Services
British Columbia Fall Prevention Awareness Week
Reach Out Today
The Senior Homecare by Angels team is proud to provide your elderly loved ones with the best home care in Calgary. Our Home Care Services help seniors to remain safe and independent at home. We have a wealth of experience in providing all types of care under many different circumstances. Our wonderful group of caregivers are bonded, insured and have current police back ground checks completed.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us for a complimentary in-home consultation. You can call us at 403-862-0129 or toll-free (outside of Calgary) at 1-877-209-6142 or visit our Contact Us page to complete and submit a simple contact form!
Gerry Gatto is a trained health care administrator and the owner of Senior Homecare® By Angels a Calgary – based company. Helping Calgary seniors remain in their home and maintain their independence with the assistance of dedicated caregiver.