Lisa Conway – FLORIDA TODAY
Q: I know falling is dangerous for older people. How can falls be prevented?
A: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), each year millions of people 65 and older fall. While 25% of seniors fall each year– less than half report it to their physician. Studies demonstrate that falling once doubles your chance of falling again.
Many risk factors contribute to falls in the elderly. Some factors include vitamin D deficiency, medications that may cause dizziness or drowsiness, vision problems, foot pain or ill-fitting footwear, lower body weakness, inner ear and sinus infections –and numerous other conditions. Broken/uneven steps or pavement, dim lighting, throw rugs, clutter and even small animals are only a few environmental hazards. Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors.
As a Nurse Care Manager, I assess the client’s home or current setting as part of their overall evaluation. I try to identify and eliminate fall risks, to help ensure seniors are in the safest environment possible. Post-evaluation, we look for additional ways the environment can be modified to provide added safety.
Therapists and medical professionals suggest a review of medications, to determine if any could put you at risk for falls. If yes, are there other options? Strength and balance exercises are strongly encouraged. If there is increased weakness or a change in condition, I sometimes ask the physician or practitioner for an order to “evaluate and treat” for therapy. Yoga, tai chi and even simple walking can all help strengthen core muscles and improve balance. I also encourage clients to have their eyes checked annually.
Another tool to consider (especially for those living alone) is a “personal alert” button. We have all seen the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials. These devices can be life savers. I especially recommend the alert devices that include GPS and can detect a fall. There may be scenarios where we are not able to press a button. The alerts with fall detection will automatically alert the emergency contact.
Lastly, Nicolas Webley, PT, DPT with Aquatic Health and Rehab reminds us, “If there are assistive devices (canes, walkers, hearing aids) you should be using, make sure you are not only using the correct device — but that you are using them consistently and correctly.”
Not every fall can be prevented– but many of them can. Check the online schedule for safety events at OneSeniorPlace.com or call The Experts in Aging at 321-751-6771 for more information.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to askOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.
Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera.