The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that one in three seniors will fall every year, and in 2013 falls led to 2.5 million emergency hospital visits. Depending on the fall, injuries can range from just tenderness all the way up to brain damage, it’s no laughing matter.
Instead of just dealing with the aftermath, what about taking preventative measures to help the elderly in your life keep their balance. Instead of playing defense and rushing to the hospital, there’s a lot you can do to help preventing falls in the first place.
1. Try Some Simple Exercises
As we get older, many people will lose coordination and flexibility - leading to more falls. The good news is that it’s not hard to build up your coordination again.
Balance is primarily lost through inactivity but there’s no need to run out to night school, many of the exercises can be done right at home, and only take a few minutes.
The one exercise that gets recommended the most is to simply stand on one foot. Be sure to keep a wall or chair within reach just in case, then pick up one of your feet and balance on the other. If this gets too easy for you, there are ways to spice it up like standing on a pillow!
You can make an improvement to your balance at any stage of your life. It’s never too late to try a little exercising. Be sure to talk with your Doctor first before starting any new exercise plans.
2. Try Vitamin D Supplements
This goes hand in hand with our first recommendation, vitamin D helps your body absorb more calcium to keep your bones strong. Without it, later in life your bones get thinner and more brittle, eventually they can become several times more likely to break.
Exercise and vitamin D are a great tag team combination that keep your muscles strong. With stronger muscles, you’re less likely to fall. If you do, you’re far less likely to fracture or break a bone. Again be sure to talk to your Doctor about a Vitamin D supplement.
3. Have Your Vision Tested
As your eyes age, less light gets into the retina - the part of your eye intended to take what it sees and send it to the brain. This makes obstacles like stairs, the couch, or the bathroom sink a lot harder to detect.
Even if your elderly family member has never needed glasses, it might be a good time for an eye exam. It’ll eat up part of your afternoon, but making sure your parent has the correct prescription or needs glasses at all is worth it. This one simple solution could save your parents life!
4. Take A Closer Look At Medications
If your elderly parent is having difficulty keeping track of medications, it might be time to take a closer look. Many medications can cause dizziness or have bad interactions with other medications that can increase the chance of a fall.
It is recommend that the next time they get a new prescription to have the list of all medications reviewed by the pharmacist. Keep an eye out for any nonprescription medications that are labeled as ‘PM’ or contain sleep aids. Also make sure your Mom or Dad is careful about drinking alcohol and taking their medications, this could have a deadly outcome.
These medications can have severe effects on balance issues if your loved one gets up before the effects wear off. If they are having a sleep problem it’s a much better idea to see a doctor, a trained professional will be able to prescribe a better solution.
5. Check Blood Pressure
Postural or orthostatic hypotension, a rapid fall in blood pressure when you stand up, is extremely common in the elderly. This can be exasperated by any number of medications designed to lower blood pressure.
As many as one in five older adults can have minor postural hypotension, which can cause a light headed feeling when you standing. Blood pressure treatments have a link to serious injuries from falls.
This is a minor extension to our 4th tip, if your elderly loved one has hypertension make sure the pendulum doesn’t swing too far in the other direction. Overtreatment puts them at greater risk of falling. You could purchase a blood pressure monitor for your home and take a few readings while they are sitting, then a few more immediately after standing. Notice something amiss? Time for a doctor’s appointment!
6. Modify The Environment
How often do you think about doing a little home improvement to make your house safer? Chances are, probably not often. There are a few minor improvements you could make to your house in an afternoon that will greatly benefit anyone at risk of a fall. See our article Top 5 Steps to Prevent Falls in the Home for more information!
Going back to the vision recommendation, installing extra lighting throughout the house will cut the chance of a fall down to size. You could install lights in the hallway, around stairs or in the bathroom that have a sensor in them and only activate when someone walks by.
Stairs are one of the most dangerous areas in your house, make sure you have proper safety equipment set up. If you’re senior is mobile, you could install a secure rail for them to hold onto. If getting up and down the stairs is an issue, there are also commercially available stairlifts - it might be better to hire a professional to install one, they can be quite complicated.
The bathroom is usually a hotspot for falls due to the slippery tiles. You can fix that with grab bars near the toilet and shower. Some non-stick tape or a shower mat in the tub can give you peace of mind when your loved one goes to wash up.
Falls are frightening events but as you can see there’s a lot you can do to put the odds in your favor and prevent them. There’s no time like the present to get started, why not pick one item from the list and bring it up next time you see your loved one?
Don’t wait until it’s too late, preventing falls now means you don’t need to stress out and make a midnight run to the hospital later.
Also make sure your parents are protected in case of a fall if they live alone. We encourage you to research purchasing them a medical alert system. This will protect them in case they do fall, it's very simple, they push a button and help is on the way. LifeStation.com even offers a medical alert system with fall detection capabilities. This means it will automatically detect if your parent or loved one has fallen. You can use our promo code "CPR3" at LifeStation.com to save even more.
- Happy Walking