A fall can lead to severe complications for seniors. Dr Darius Soonawalla explains how to prevent falls
Every year one out of every 15 elderly persons is likely to have a fall, resulting in a fracture. Increasingly more patients above 85 years of age and some even above 100 years need to undergo surgery for these fractures. Even with modern advances in medicine and surgery, this is a huge setback and very often the person never recovers to their pre-fall status. Falls also cause a fear of falling again, avoidance of daily activities, social isolation and ultimately a poorer quality of life.
So how do we minimize the risk of a fall, at the same time maintaining an active lifestyle? The following simple precautions can also be taken to minimize the risk of a fall:
Exercise – Firstly we need to understand that falls in seniors are common, as, with age muscle strength, coordination and reflexes tend to get poorer. This can be countered by doing a daily regime of light strengthening & balancing exercises. This is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself!
Walking the stairs –Concentrate while walking on the stairs. It is a place where falls are very likely to happen.
Sit and change your clothes – Change of clothes happen 2-3 times a day and can become a high-risk factor.
Declutter your home – The less that is lying around, the less likely you are to trip over anything, so try to keep clutter and mess to a minimum. It is also important to clean up spillages as quickly as possible to avoid slippery floors. Specifically, make sure your toilet floor is not wet at night, and the path from your bed to the toilet is clear.
Provide adequate lighting. Keep your rooms well lit in and around the house so that you can easily see where you are walking. Consider keeping lights on in hallways and bathrooms all night, in case you need to go to the toilet.
Use non-slip materials –Use non-slip mats and rugs around the house, as well as in the bath, porches and anywhere else that is likely to get slippery. Also, consider placing non-slip materials under rugs to keep them in place.
Check out on things that may make you trip – Check for hazards such as rugs, loose pieces of carpet, uneven floorboards, wires, and cables. Repair or remove potentially dangerous items, and run wires and cables around the edge of a room to keep them out of the way. Place electrical appliances as close to the plug socket as possible.
Do not climb on a stool – Try to keep everything at a height you can easily reach. Do not climb on a stool; it is an activity that is very accident-prone. Ensure that all regularly used items are within reach. Install handles or grab-bars in places where you need extra support, such as on stairs, in the bath or toilet.
Level living – Try to live as much as possible on one level. By adding stairs or even individual steps, you increase the risk of a fall.
No socks or tights – Don’t walk around your home in socks or tights as these can be slippery. Try using inside shoes, slippers or socks with grips on the bottom to reduce the risk of slipping.
Don’t wear long clothes – It is very easy to trip over long skirts or trousers that can catch your heel. Try to wear fitted and properly hemmed clothes.
Don’t rush – Falls can often happen when we are rushing somewhere – to answer the phone or the door, for example. Take your time when you are moving around your home. People will understand. When moving from a seated or prone position, also do this slowly to avoid dizziness.
Alarms – Consider wearing a wrist or pendant alarm, in case you have a fall and cannot get up. Also, if you are alone, have a system where a close relative or friend checks on you daily.
Diet – Make sure you eat foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong. And eat regularly to ensure your blood sugar level is sufficient to avoid light-headedness. Also, drink enough liquids so you don’t get dehydrated.
The risk of falling is a very real one as we get older, and it is important that it is taken seriously. If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, share your concerns with a health professional, friends and family.