As we age, our bodies begin to experience more wear and tear than they used to, which can lead to complications that affect our day-to-day lives and our health in the long run. As baby boomers begin to hit retirement age, they have been experiencing increasing rates of falls and fall-related injuries, attributed to several different factors, including obesity, osteoporosis, joint diseases, and more. Here are some elderly fall risks to look out for.
Types of Elderly Fall Risks and How to Prevent Them
Slips are a specific type of fall that occurs when a person loses balance, usually because one foot is on a higher level than the other, but sometimes because a slick surface causes a person to lose traction. Slips can be especially dangerous since they may result in a severe head injury.
Make sure walkways are free from clutter, mud, ice, or grease that could cause a slip. Also, if you have rugs, they should be non-slip. Make sure your home is not too dark for elderly to see where they’re walking.
Trips occur when we lose balance while walking, especially on irregular surfaces. Trip falls are widespread in the elderly because it becomes more challenging to keep one’s body aligned with its center of gravity, making one susceptible to missteps.
Watch for trip hazards like cracks, broken glass, or anything else that could be problematic. Make sure your home is free from items on walkways or floors that can cause you to trip.
- Falls from Standing Height
Falls from a standing height can cause serious injuries or even death because they do not allow enough time to break a fall. It only takes about six inches to injure your head, neck, or spine.
Try reaching overhead to help keep you steady when attempting to stand from a seated position. Remember: The more stable your body feels in general, the less likely an unexpected movement will cause injury.
- Falling Down from Stairs
Stair falls are responsible for nearly 10,000 injuries every year. According to a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, aging adults with chronic pain who had recently fallen were two times more likely to pass on within five years than those who had not fallen.
Always hold handrails when going up or down the stairs. If there is no handrail, keep a secure grip on an object like a chair.
Falling and Its Consequences for the Elderly
Falls are one of the leading causes of injury. If you fall, even if there is nothing around to bump into or no risk of injury, you can still get hurt. Falls often cause injuries like sprains and bruises, which may require medical treatment depending on their severity. Falls also risk fractures (broken bones), especially when they involve hitting hard surfaces or other blunt objects. Some fractures require surgery to repair, while others heal with enough rest and time. Fall injuries may be severe enough to place your life at risk if left untreated.
- Reduced Independence
When the elderly fall and sustain injuries, their ability to care for themselves and do things on their own can be affected, which means falling even more often, creating a dangerous downward spiral.
- Social Impact
Falls can result in broken bones, but they can also be severe enough to cause concussions. Beyond that, though, falls often increase the risk of injury by causing older people to become socially isolated. People who don’t feel safe or mobile often limit their activities and stay at home instead of going out with friends or family.