Falls can occur anytime, anyplace, and for a variety of reasons. Hazards in the home are a common cause, however, other falls occur due to muscle weakness, balance, vision problems, and side effects from medications.
About one in three people over the age of 65 fall each year, and this number increases with age. Falls cause over
90% of broken hips and are the most common cause for hospital admissions due to injuries. People 75 and older
who fall are more likely to be admitted to a long-term care community, however, falls remain the most
preventable cause for nursing home placement. Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of death due to
WHAT CAUSES PEOPLE TO FALL?
Each year, nearly two million people over the age of 65 receive treatment in an emergency room as a result of a fall. Of those, about 25% require hospitalization.
The most common causes of falls include:
- Hazards in the home account for at least one- third of all falls. Contributing factors include objects on the floor, pets, loose rugs, barriers such as furniture, poor lighting, and lack of or poorly installed grab bars.
- Medications such as sedatives, anti-depressants, or anti-psychotic drugs contribute to falls by reducing mental alertness, disrupting balance and gait, and/or a drop in blood pressure while standing or changing positions. People who take four or more medications or have had a recent change in their medications are at greater risk of falling.
- Changes in vision caused by age-related diseases can increase your risk of falling. Cataracts and glaucoma alter depth perception, visual acuity, peripheral vision, and increase sensitivity to glare. Regular examinations by your eye doctor will help detect and treat changes in vision and eye diseases.
- A change in mobility can occur due to illness, poor muscle tone, decreased strength and flexibility, and may contribute to an increased risk for falls. It is important to stay active. A program of prescribed exercises, using proper body mechanics during daily activities, and wearing proper fitting, supportive shoes with low heels or rubber soles will help to prevent falls.
- A balance disorder causes a person to become unsteady on their feet and experience a sensation of floating or spinning. It is usually described as “feeling dizzy.” Dizziness is a warning signal that the system that maintains balance is not functioning properly.
- An organ in the inner ear, called the “labyrinth” is an important part of our balance or “vestibular” system.
The labyrinth coordinates with your brain, nervous system, eyes, bones, and joints to keep your body properly positioned. When not working correctly, you may experience the following symptoms:
- dizziness or vertigo
- light headedness
- blurry vision
- a feeling of falling or an actual fall
- changes in your heart rate
- nausea and vomiting
- Some medical conditions, such as high or low blood pressure, or emotional responses such as fear, anxiety, or panic may also contribute to a balance disorder and dizziness.
HOW ARE BALANCED IS ORDERS DIAGNOSED?
Diagnosis of a balance disorder may be difficult because there are many different reasons for dizziness, which include disorders and other medical conditions or medications.
If you experience any symptoms of a balance disorder, contact your doctor for an appointment. Bring a list of your symptoms with you including how, when, and where you experience dizziness. Also bring a list of all medications you are taking, including vitamins, minerals, herbal, or nutritional supplements, and any other “over-the-counter” medication. Be sure to tell your doctor about any recent health changes, recent or reoccurring infections, or recent head injuries, falls, or other trauma.
Treatment of a balance disorder depends on the cause. If caused by a medical condition or medication, treatment may include a change or new prescription. Your doctor may request specialized tests or further consultation by another doctor. Individual treatment will be determined by your symptoms, medical history, general health, examination by a physician, and the results of medical tests.
A home healthcare provider, like Inspired HomeCare, can address your fall risks with you and work with your physician to develop a plan specific to your needs.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT FALLS?
Are you or a family member at risk for falls? Here is a safety checklist to help your prevent falls.
- Keep pathways clear of things that could trip you, such as newspapers, books, clothes,shoes, cords, sleeping pets, or toys.
- Rearrange you furniture to keep walkways clear.
- Remove loose throw rugs or secure tightly with double-sided tape.
- Be sure all carpeting lies flat on the floor.
- Avoid patterned flooring, as it can interfere with depth perception.
- Check furniture, such as table and chairs, for stability in case they are used as support.
- Sit in firm chairs that are the appropriate height with arms to make sitting and standing easier and safer.
- Use bed risers or a platform to raise furniture.
- Furniture with wheels should be in the locked position.
- Keep telephones on a low table and not the wall or high counters. If you fall, they need to be in a reachable place.
- Do not walk over or around cords or wires such as telephone, lighting, or extension cords. Coil or tape cords / wires next to the wall. Do not tuck them under the rug. Have an electrician add more outlets, if necessary.
- Have sturdy handrails on both sides of the entire staircase.
- Be sure all steps are in good repair. Replace loose, worn, or broken steps inside and out.
- Add boldly colored duct tape to the threshold and each stair so they can be seen easily.
- Firmly attach carpeting on all stairs or remove the carpet and attach non-slip rubber treads.
- Place dishes and food on lower shelves so there is no need to climb or reach too high.
- Clean up spills immediately. Do not step on wet surfaces.
- Avoid climbing, but if necessary, use a steady step stool with a hand bar. Never use a chair as a step stool.
- Do not wax your floors, as they will become slippery.
- Install grab bars near the toilet and in the shower/tub. Your therapist or Durable Medical Equipment company will advise you about proper placement and installment for maximum safety.
- Have non-skid mats or strips on the tub /shower floor and non-skid / -slip rugs on the floor outside the tub / shower.
- Clean up spills and moist areas immediately. Do not step on wet surfaces.
- Use a tub / shower chair or transfer bench with a hand-held shower to bathe if you are unsteady on your feet.
- Use an elevated toilet seat to make sitting and rising easier.
- Keep personal care items within easy reach.
- Place towels close to the tub / shower so you do not have to reach for them.
- Keep walkways free of cracks, holes, clutter, and debris.
- In winter, clear all walkways of snow and ice.
- Be aware of and clean up any spills in the garage or driveway, especially oil.
- Install handrails at the entrance to your home and garage.
- Be sure lighting is adequate at doors and walkways.
- Make sure you have adequate lighting; use night lights to light the path to bathrooms.
- Replace all burned out bulbs immediately.
- Avoid low wattage light bulbs. Use the maximum wattage allowed for lamps per the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Always use lights in the evening and night.
- Make sure stairways, halls, doorways, and outside steps are well-lit.
- Be sure there is a light switch at both the top and bottom of staircases.
- Place night lights in hallways, bathrooms, and your bedroom so you can see where you are walking at night.
- Have a phone within easy reach of your bed.
- Have a lamp or light switch within easy reach of your bed.
- Keep a flashlight and extra batteries within easy reach of your bed.
- Consider a bedside commode.
- Take care of your medical problems as needed.
- Have your vision and hearing tested and corrected regularly.
- Be aware that people with cataracts can be sensitive to bright lights which can cause a glare.
- If you wear bifocals, consider getting a pair of glasses for reading, and one pair for distance to avoid visual distortion.
- Use assistive devices, such as canes and walkers, as instructed.
- Be sure adaptive equipment is fitted properly and in good condition.
- Wear footwear with non-slip soles and heels that provide good support and traction between your foot and the surfaces you walk on.
- Avoid wearing athletic shoes or slippers with deep treads.
- Avoid wearing open-toed or backless shoes or slippers.
- Avoid wearing socks or smooth-soled shoes or slippers on stairs, wood or waxed surfaces.
- Speak to your physician or therapist about exercises that are right for you. By exercising regularly, you can improve your strength, balance, and coordination.
- Rise slowly from a sitting or lying position to avoid becoming light-headed.
- Anytime you change position, take a minute to steady yourself.
- Have a phone within easy reach of your bed or chair and carry a fully charged portable or cell phone with you at all times. Never rush to answer the telephone.
- Keep emergency numbers in large print near each phone. If you have an authorized caregiver, make sure the home number and address is also listed with the emergency numbers in case of emergency.
- Consider an emergency call system to bring you help in case you fall.
Our home may be our castle, but it also contains hazards that place us at greater risk for falls. If injured,recovery may be difficult. Even if a fall does not cause an injury, it can limit confidence and the ability to be fully independent.
Most accidents in the home can be prevented by eliminating hazards, reducing personal risks, and improving our
Inspired HomeCare agencies provide in home care services such as Medicare certified home healthcare, private duty homecare, and hospice services, in various locations. Talk to your physician or homecare provider, if you have concerns about fall safety. To find an Inspired HomeCare agency near you, visit: https://inspiredhomecare.net/locations/