Most people have suffered a fall-related injury in their lives; however, as we get older, falls become more common. The Organización Mundial de la Salud, estimates that up to 35% of people aged 65 and over fall each year.
Falls in old age can cause hip fractures, broken bones, and head injuries, which can be a painful experience, contributing to increased anxiety and reduced activity levels. That is why active fall prevention in older age is so important. Fortunately, by following these steps, older people can reduce the risk of falls and fall-related injuries.
Read this article to understand the risk factors for falls and learn about the most effectiveFs for seniors.
1. Stay Active
Maintaining an active lifestyle is among the most important fall prevention tips for seniors. Activities such as walking and water sports improve balance and flexibility, strengthen your bones and muscles, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. However, it is understandable to be wary of physical activity as you get older. If you’re worried about falling, consult a physio for advice on safe exercises for your age.
2. Get Enough Sleep
After a certain age, we tend to sleep less and less, but that doesn’t mean that older people need less sleep. On the contrary, if you don’t get enough rest during the night, your reflexes and reaction time will decrease, and you will be less alert to your surroundings. Insufficient rest can, therefore, contribute to falls. You should always aim to get a good night’s sleep and avoid physical activity if you feel tired. It’s safer to sit down or have a nap until you feel rested or postpone the activity until the next day.
3. Improve Your Diet
Eating the right foods can go a long way in preventing falls. A balanced diet with all the necessary nutrients will keep your body strong. Make sure your diet includes vitamin D and calcium—both vital for bone strength—and avoid foods with low nutritional values and empty calories, as an unhealthy weight can reduce bone mass.
4. Check Your Medications
Many medications have side effects—dizziness, dehydration, weakness—that contribute to the risk of falls. The more medication you take, the more likely you will experience these side effects. While some pills are essential to preserving your health, there may be alternatives with fewer side effects. Make a list of your medications and the side effects you experience, and talk to your healthcare provider about safer options.
5. Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol has many adverse effects on health and also increases the risk of accidents. Drinking alcohol can impair your vision and hearing while throwing you off balance. It is, therefore, best to avoid alcohol altogether or to drink in moderation and not engage in physical activity while drinking. The combination of alcohol and medication can also have undesirable consequences, another reason to be cautious.
6. Wear Appropriate Shoes
Wearing the right shoes is one of the most effective fall prevention tips for seniors. Avoid high heels, slippers, and shoes with smooth soles as they make your feet and ankles unstable, increasing the chance of falling. Instead, choose slip-resistant flat shoes with rubber soles, which fit you properly, keep your feet stable, and even help reduce joint pain.
7. Make Your Environment Safer
Many falls happen around the home. Therefore, some fall prevention tips for seniors are about making your environment safer. This involves removing any unnecessary objects that get in the way, discarding loose rugs, and keeping everyday items (such as kitchen supplies) within easy reach. After you have checked the house, go through the yard in the same manner and remove any fall hazards from pathways.
8. Light Up Your Home
Since accidents are often caused by inadequate lighting, you can prevent falls by adding more lights around the house. Start with installing additional night lighting in bedrooms, bathrooms, hallways, and stairwells. Then make clear pathways to light switches, and consider replacing them with glow-in-the-dark switches. Most importantly, reduce the time spent walking in the dark and use a torch if necessary.
9. Use Assistive Devices
After a certain age, assistive devices can become indispensable in maintaining an active lifestyle. For example, a cane or a walker can make exercise less strenuous and provide support during your walks. Other aids include stair rails, grab rails in the shower or tub and raised toilet seats with armrests. If you are unsure which device to install in your home, a physical therapist can help you find the ones for your needs.
10. Use Caution on Wet Surfaces
Wet, slippery surfaces also cause falls in seniors. With outdoors, this means puddles of water and patches of ice. While sometimes it’s impossible to avoid going outside, you must be aware of the risks. Use non-slip shoes and walking canes, and keep your balance by not carrying too much in your hands.
With being indoors, slippery surfaces are primarily found in the bathroom. It is, therefore, worth using non-slip mats and grab rails in this area. Always wipe up any spills on the floor that could cause slipping, and take similar care in the kitchen or pool area.
The Bottom Line
Aging is a natural process of life during which our bodies go through physical and cognitive changes, resulting in reduced mobility and more frequent falls. Learning to prevent falls, therefore, becomes increasingly important as we age—one of the main reasons to see a physical therapist. A physical therapist can offer fall prevention tips for seniors, assess your health condition and provide you with a personalized plan to improve your strength, balance, and coordination to help reduce the risk of falls.
Dr. Alexandra Chaux is a physical therapist certified in Fall prevention and focusing on physical therapy for seniors. In addition to manual therapy, exercises, and neuromuscular re-education, Dr. Chaux also shares fall prevention tips personalized to your living situation.
If you’re interested in further fall prevention tips for seniors, contact Chaux Physical Therapy at 805-203-9940 and find out how physical therapy can help you move with freedom as you age.