Falling is the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for older adults 65 and over. Every year, one in four older Americans will experience a fall. When an older adult experiences a fatal fall, it could result in a hip fracture, broken bone, or even a head injury. In other cases, without a significant injury can cause them to become fearful or depressed, making it difficult for them to stay active and healthy. Some common factors that can lead to a fall are poor balance and vision, medications that cause dizziness, environmental factors such as stairs, and chronic conditions like diabetes, stroke, or even arthritis.
If you have an aging parent, grandparent, or neighbor, follow these steps to help reduce their risk of a fall. It’s important to help your loved ones stay healthy and independent as long as possible.
Enlist their support in taking simple steps to stay safe.
Ask your loved one if they’re concerned about falling. Many older adults will recognize that falling is a risk, but insist it won’t happen to them or they won’t get hurt. If your loved one is concerned about falling, suggest that they should talk to their health care provider who can assess their personal risk and suggest programs or services that can help.
Discuss their current health conditions.
Find out if your loved one is experiencing any problems with managing their own health. Is it getting more challenging to do the things they used to do easily? Is their hearing or vision becoming problematic? Also, encourage them to speak openly with their health care provider about all of their concerns.
Ask about their last eye checkup.
If your loved one wears glasses, make sure they have an up-to-date prescription, and they’re using the glasses as advised by their doctor. Remember that tint-changing lenses and bifocals can be hazardous for your loved one. Consulting with a low-vision specialist can help your loved one make the most of their eyesight.
Notice if they’re having difficulty walking on their own.
If your loved one is showing this sign, then it might be time to see a physical therapist. Seeing a trained physical therapist can help improve their balance, strength, and gait through exercise. They might also suggest a cane or walker and provide guidance on how to use these aids. Make sure your loved one is following their advice because poorly fit aids can actually increase the risk of falling.
Talk about their medications.
When your loved one is having a hard time keeping track of medicines or experiencing side effects, encourage them to discuss their concerns with their doctor and pharmacist. Also, be aware of non-prescription medications that cause dizziness and balance issues such as pain killers with “PM” in their names. Each time your loved one gets a new prescription, suggest that they have their medications reviewed.
Do a walk-through assessment of their home.
Making your loved one feel safer in their own home can be inexpensive and straightforward. Some ways are increasing the lighting throughout the house, making sure there are two rails on all stairs, and installing grab bars in the tub, shower, and toilet. For even greater safety, consider using a shower chair or installing a hand-held shower in their bathroom.