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Major Risk Factors for Falls in Seniors

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For seniors, the discussion of longevity and staying out of the hospital largely comes down to, how can I keep from falling?. Falling is the leading cause of fatal injury for seniors over 65, so it's critical to acknowledge common risk factors and easy environmental and physical upgrades which can help prevent falls. Risk factors include:

Clutter

Want to fall-proof your home? Start by removing clutter and trip hazards. These can include everything from bulky pieces of furniture that go unused in common walkways, to cords and curled up corners of carpets that are easy to catch your foot on. The clearer your walkways and rooms are in the home environment, the easier it will be to maneuver around with ease.

What to do: Audit your living environment and ditch the large tables, chairs, chests, and other unused items that are simply taking up space. Move cords (from the computer, phone, etc) out of the way by taping or stapling against a wall, and make sure small objects like pets toys aren't scattered around the floor.

Balance & Coordination

As you age, your muscles, bones, and joints naturally experience wear and tear that weakens your overall strength, however, balance and coordination don't necessarily need to diminish as well. Managing a healthy weight and symptoms of chronic diseases which can impact activity levels (like heart disease and diabetes) is a must.

What to do: Flexibility exercises, like yoga, combined with regular fitness, like walking, hiking, golfing, or swimming, help strengthen balance and coordination skills which makes catching and correcting yourself before falling to the ground easier.

Vision Problems

Couple age-related weakness and balance issues with untreated vision loss and you have a recipe for disaster. Unevaluated eye problems can lead to loss of peripheral vision and depth perception which make walking and navigating stairways extremely difficult for an older adult.

What to do: Make sure you or your loved one get their eyes checked yearly so a medical doctor can evaluate vision, eye pressure, and potential issues like cataracts or vision loss that might affect your ability to get around safely.

Mobility Issues

Difficulty walking and standing may require the use of mobility aids like canes, walkers, and knee scooters. Struggling with mobility is difficult enough without having to worry about tripping or falling in your own home environment. Any challenge to staying active and moving around safely is a challenge to staying upright as well.

What to do: Find an accessible place to store mobility aids when they are not in use, and install helpful grab bars and railings around trickier environments like staircases and bathrooms. Consider investing in a ramp for getting in and out of the home as well.

Unequipped Bathrooms

The bathroom makes for one of the most hazardous fall-prone areas simply because of its smaller size and slippery surfaces. Getting in and out of the tub or shower may require extra strength and balance, especially when unassisted, not to mention standing and sitting on the toilet.

What to do: Use helpful tools and devices in the bath like non-slip tape and a shower chair. Install grab bars and railings around the bath and toilet area, and consider using a raised toilet seat with handles for supporting strong standing and sitting.

Lighting

Poor lighting and drastically dim to bright lighting can negatively impact a senior's ability to move from room to room safely. Not only does dim lighting prevent you from seeing everything clearly in front of you, but moving from a dim room to an extremely brightly lit one (like the bathroom) requires more time for older eyes to adjust.

What to do: Light switches should be accessible on the outside and inside of doorways, and light bulbs should all be relatively the same strength from room to room. Easy to draw shades or drapes should also cover windows to help prevent glare and blinding sunlight from impacting the eyes.