Senior Fall Prevention 101

One of the scariest feelings for an adult is to find out your parent or senior loved one fell and no one was there to help. Many thoughts run through your mind. How do I prevent a fall?

What do you do? 

What could have been done to prevent it? 

Are there other injuries that we don’t know about that occurred due to the fall? 

Falls can result in cuts, bruises, fractures, head injuries, or other painful injuries. Additionally, the initial fall can include associated problems that can lead to bigger ailments. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that 1 in 5 falls cause serious injury such as a broken bone or head injury. Falls are a main cause of disease and disability in the elderly. More than one-third of persons 65 years of age or older fall each year, and in half of such cases the falls are recurrent.1 The risk doubles or triples in the presence of cognitive impairment or history of previous falls.2

What we already know is as a person ages, the likelihood of medical problems increases including the need for additional medications. An example – some medications can help with lowering blood pressure, and as a side effect dizziness, fatigue or a sudden drop in pressure after standing too quickly can occur. This can be a big risk when taking these type of medications but these medications are important for a seniors overall blood pressure which is important as well. What do you do? Keep reading.

Another area that changes as a person ages is how they walk or move around. Mainly their gait, balance, stride, and muscle strength in their legs can decrease making it more difficult to get around.

Research has shown other independent risk factors for falling include the following (arranged in order of evidence strength): previous falls, balance impairment, decreased muscle strength, visual impairment, polypharmacy (more than 4 medications) or psychoactive drugs, gait impairment and walking difficulty, depression, dizziness or orthostasis, functional limitations, age older than 80 years, female sex, incontinence, cognitive impairment, arthritis, diabetes, and pain.1 The risk of falling increases with the number of risk factors: 1-year risk of falling doubles with each additional factor, starting from 8% with none, and reaching 78% with 4 risk factors.1 A recent meta-analysis identified the following risk factors as having the strongest association with falling: history of falls, gait problems, walking aid use, vertigo, Parkinson disease, and antiepileptic drug use.8

To find answers to the main question – What do you do to prevent an elderly person from falling? 

We researched expert options and although you can not stop anyone from falling. We found that the good news is it is possible to reduce the chance of a bad fall with preventative action.

Geriatrician Dr. Kernisan suggested the 4 following steps to help create a fall prevention plan: 

  1. Create a list of factors contributing to an individual older person’s fall risk.
  2. Identify risk factors and triggers related to recent or recurrent falls.
  3. Identify the factors that are easiest to modify or change. This is partly about the factor itself, and partly about what’s possible for the patient to try to change. (Stairs can be a risk, but changing houses can be tricky.
  4. Implement practical strategies to address modifiable fall risk factors.

Once a fall prevention plan is in place and practiced, the likelihood of preventing a bad fall or at least having the senior feel more confident on how to handle a fall can decrease the chances of a more serious injury occurring. Unfortunately, a fall may not be preventable but having other options such as wearing an emergency device or living with a caregiver can aid in fast acting help to make sure they receive the care they need quickly to prevent other injuries that could occur if they fell while they were alone and were unable to call for help. If a senior is at risk for falling, it is best to talk to their primary medical physician to create a plan and to discuss living arrangements so they can be cared for in a best case scenario.