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Older couple laughing.

 

If you are an older adult or have a parent or other loved one who is elderly, you may be concerned about slips and falls. Falls become more common after age 65, and the risk of falling continues to increase with age. However, falls are not actually a normal part of healthy aging, and understanding why falls happen can help you prevent them.

 

Falls can lead to severe injuries, sprains and strains, and bone fractures, but they can also cause psychological and emotional pain. Falling is a fear of many older adults, even if they have never fallen before. This fear can prevent you or your loved one from doing once-loved activities, running errands, or leaving the home to visit friends and family. Unfortunately, a lack of activity can further lead to a problem with falling and increase the chances of injury.

 

Luckily, most falls are preventable by maintaining an active lifestyle and taking precautions. Below, we explain the causes of senior falls, how to prevent falls, and what to do if you or a loved one fall.

 

Read on to learn how to reduce your fall risks or protect someone you know from falling inside or outside their home.

 

 

Causes of Senior Falls

There are many causes of falls for seniors that can be physical, environmental, or lifestyle related. Some older adults can experience multiple factors simultaneously, increasing their chances of slips and falls around their homes and when they travel.

 

Physical risk factors of falls include, but are not limited to:

  • Balance or gait challenges

  • Arthritis

  • Diabetes

  • Chronic pain

  • Memory loss

  • Confusion

  • Difficulty with problem-solving

  • Dehydration

  • Depression

  • Lack of sleep

  • Hearing problems

  • Thyroid issues

  • Muscle weakness

  • Dementia

  • Alzheimer’s

  • Neuropathy (numbness) in the legs and feet

  • Vision limitations

  • …and more

 

Environmental risk factors for falls can include:

  • Uneven surfaces

  • Clutter on the floor or ground

  • Ice and snow

  • Water on the floor 

  • Incorrect use of walker or cane

  • Loose wires or cables

  • Unsecured carpets or rugs

  • Unlit stairwells or corridors

  • Improper footwear

 

Lifestyle-related factors for falls, include:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Medications
  • Alcohol consumption

 

 

Fall Prevention Tips for Older Adults

 

Older couple walking in the park.

 

While not every fall is preventable regardless of your stage of life, many falls can be avoided by addressing the physical, environmental, and lifestyle factors listed above.

 

Below, we cover fall prevention tips in greater detail.

 

Talk to Your Doctor

If you have fallen before, you have been feeling unbalanced, or you have a fear of falling, speak with your doctor at your earliest opportunity.

 

Many physical conditions may cause you to fall or feel like you may fall, and your doctor may be able to prescribe an easy solution. Addressing any health concerns is vital to fall prevention and overall wellness as you age.

 

Remain Physically Active

Regular physical activity is all part of healthy aging and maintaining your strength and independence.

 

Find an exercise program that works best for you and stick with it to keep your muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons working optimally. Staying active can also help reduce fractures, sprains, and strains that can be painful and slow to heal.

 

Sleep Well, Stay Hydrated, and Eat a Balanced Diet

Falls are more likely to happen when you are tired, dehydrated, or undernourished. You may feel less alert, dizzy, drowsy, or lightheaded if you are not taking care of your body, leading you to fall more often.

 

If you find it challenging to keep up with sleeping, drinking, and eating enough, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, and loved ones about solutions to support you.

 

Regularly Have Your Eyes and Ears Examined

Changes in your eyesight and hearing play a more significant role in fall prevention than many realize. This is because we use multiple senses subconsciously when we move throughout the world – especially our eyes and ears. Therefore, be sure to attend your appointments regularly to ensure your eyeglasses and hearing aids always fit your needs.

 

Invest in Proper Footwear

Wearing high heels, flip flops, or ill-fitting shoes can significantly increase your risk of falls. Be extra mindful of wearing appropriate footwear in the winter or when you could encounter slippery surfaces. Invest in shoes that fit correctly, and only wear them if they have adequate tread.

 

Use a Cane or Walker, If You Need One

Walking assists can make a big difference in your confidence when moving around your house/yard, running your errands, visiting friends, or going out for your evening walk. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how to choose a cane or walker if you feel you would like to use one.

 

 

What to Do If You Fall

Falling or watching a friend or family member fall can be very upsetting and startling. If you have fallen, feeling scared, out of sorts, and even a little embarrassed is normal. If you have watched your loved one fall or they have told you that they keep falling, you may feel sad, helpless, or guilty. All of these feelings are valid and anticipated.

 

If you fall or someone else falls, you may feel like you want to get up quickly/help the person up right away. However, it is very important to assess the situation before moving. Sometimes, more damage happens when you try to rush.

 

Below are some tips for what to do if you fall.

  1. Assess the environment. Do not move right away unless you are located somewhere that puts you or others in greater, imminent danger (traffic, sharp objects, fire, flooding, etc.)
  2. Take a deep breath to try to relax and regain your composure
  3. If there are no imminent threats, remain on the ground or floor.
  4. Assess if or how badly you are hurt.
  5. If possible, flag down a stranger or call a family member, neighbour, or 911 to assist you if needed.
  6. If you are able, slowly move to a seated or kneeling position. Do not stand up right away. Your blood pressure needs time to adjust.
  7. When ready, crawl to a sturdy chair or another surface where you can sit.
  8. Slowly lift yourself up onto the chair or other sitting surface.
  9. Sit for as long as you need.
  10. Seek emergency medical attention if needed or clean any scrapes and scratches.

After you have a fall, you may be tempted not to tell your children, spouse, or other family and friends. However, it is important to ensure that your loved ones know you had a fall so they can support you emotionally and physically.

 

As many of the risk factors for falls are physical, it is highly recommended that you also book a check-up with your doctor. Your doctor can make recommendations to help you avoid falls and serious injuries in the future.

 

If you take medications, your pharmacist will also want to know if you had a fall. This is particularly important if you recently started a new medication and you have been having issues with your balance or eyesight or feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or drowsy.

 

 

Conclusion

Falling can be startling, scary, and emotionally and physically painful. Many older adults fear falling, even if they have never had a fall before. Loved ones of older adults also often worry about their aging parent or grandparent having a fall injury. This fear can prevent seniors from doing things they once enjoyed and can lead to loss of independence and isolation.

 

There are many physical, environmental, and lifestyle-related factors that can increase an older adult's risk of falling inside and outside the home. Many of these risk factors can be addressed under the care of a family physician or with guidance from your local pharmacist.

 

It is important to ensure that you/your loved one remain physically active, receive treatment for any health conditions, maintain regular eye and ear exam appointments, have suitable footwear, and use a walker or cane if needed. It is also critical to check with your pharmacist if you think your medications may be impacting you negatively.

 

If you do fall or need to assist someone who has fallen, it is critical not to rush to get up. Instead, take a breath, compose your thoughts, and then evaluate if you/the person you are assisting is injured. Getting up slow is important, as blood pressure needs time to adjust after a fall. Seek help or urgent medical attention if needed, let a loved one know about the fall, and book an appointment with your doctor for a check-in and fall prevention resources. Your pharmacist may also be able to offer support while you wait for your doctor’s appointment.

 

 

Talk to Cook’s Pharmacy About Fall Prevention

 

Older couple going for a walk.

 

A local pharmacy like Cook’s Pharmacy may have fall prevention resources and guidance available to you or your loved one. Alternatively, a pharmacist near you can point you in the right direction for where to find more information or support in your region.

 

Your pharmacist can also review your/your loved one’s medications if you/they are experiencing side effects that increase the risk of falls.

 

 

Have you or your loved one fallen recently? Reach out to Cook’s Pharmacy in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, New Hamburg, or Wellesley.

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