For the young, the active, and the fit, it seems almost as much a part of life as anything else: tripping, stumbling, and catching yourself without even really thinking about it. Even a quick tumble is typically harmless and more of a good story later than a serious concern in the moment. A few, if any, of us take the time to plan out how we will get from one location to the next without risking a fall.
And yet, for seniors, this is a very real risk-factor that they must constantly consider. Few people know how very serious falls can be for their aging loved ones. If you have someone in your family—a parent or grandparent, perhaps—who is slowly growing older, it’s important to learn about the the very serious implications a fall can have on your loved one, the risk factors that increase the chances of your loved one falling, and what you can do to protect your loved one from danger.
The Serious Implications of a Fall for Seniors
As seniors age, their balance and coordination grow weaker. This leads to the increased chance for a serious fall, especially in women. According to the CDC:
- Falls are the leading cause of injuries and injury-related death in people who are 65 years or older.
- 36 million falls are reported in seniors 65 or older each year.
- Senior falls typically have about a 1% fatality rate, which means over 30,000 seniors die every single year as a result of their fall.
- 10% of falls result in hip injuries, and over 95% of hip fractures are caused because of a fall.
- Hip injuries can result in severely limited mobility and independence for the remainder of a senior’s lifetime.
Even when falls end “well” and don’t cause serious injury, they can leave seniors feeling shaken, uncertain in their safety, and vulnerable. It’s important to identify the risk factors that increase the likelihood of your loved one’s taking a tumble, especially because falling is not an inescapable fact when it comes to aging. The following are things that play an important role in the risk of your loved one falling:
It is essential that your loved one get regular eye check-ups every single year. Additionally, eye diseases like glaucoma or cataracts can increase the chance of a fall, and should be tended to immediately and carefully.
It should go without saying that floors should be clear from clutter to protect against falls. And yet many seniors choose to hold onto habits like leaving shoes on the stairs or keeping their favorite small throw rugs on the ground. These types of clutter can easily cause a trip and fall and should be avoided wherever possible.
Handrails and grab bars.
These simple tools—sturdy handrails along staircases and grab bars in showers—can dramatically decrease the likelihood of a fall. Plus, they’re easy and affordable to install.
As much as possible, seniors should look for ways to eliminate steps in their daily activities. For example, choosing to store items in lower shelves in order to avoid step stools or replacing a bathtub with a walk in shower will greatly reduce the chance of a fall.
Nothing shouts “trip danger” like shadows and poor lighting. One of the best weapons seniors have against trip hazards is excellent lighting. This is especially true of outdoor spaces around the doors if they need to go outside for some reason in the evening.
Surprisingly, shoes play a big role in a trip. Shoes that don’t fit well or have a high heel can lead to dangerous trips. Comfortable, well-fitting shoes can be a major trip deterrent.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Loved One from a Fall
In addition to ensuring the above risk factors are eliminated, there are a few other things you can do to help protect your loved one from a fall:
- Encourage exercise, especially exercises that build leg strength or core strength for balance.
- Support your loved one in having potentially embarrassing conversations with their health care professionals, especially around failing eyesight or any dizziness or lightheadedness they may experience.
- Review the medicines they are taking with their healthcare providers to ensure they are receiving the proper dosages and are not causing dizziness or fatigue, which may lead to falls.
While it’s impossible to fully protect against falls, it is possible to set up ideal environments to guard against the dangers. That’s why so many people are increasingly turning to senior living communities, which are thoughtfully designed to enhance a senior’s mobility while dramatically decreasing fall risks around the property. If you and your loved one are interested in touring a senior living community to see what protections are in place, give us a call! Here at Morningside, we offer guided tours to showcase our protective measures. Give us a call or visit us online to schedule a tour today. We would love to help you!