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Elders at Risk of Falls – By Dr. Rein Tideiksaar Ph.D.

Guest Post By Dr. Rein Tideiksaar Ph.D.

Avoiding Falls in Elderly

People of all ages fall, but falls are more common for older people. In fact, losing balance and falling down is probably the most common accident that happens to older adults. Although most people are not usually harmed when they fall, the more falls an individual has, the greater the chance of injury. If you do get hurt, the result can harm your health, your sense well being, and your independence.

Some people believe that falls are a normal part of aging, and as such are not preventable. But this is false. Falls usually are caused by certain health conditions (due to normal physical changes of aging or from illness) and/or environmental hazards in the home interfering with safety. In most of cases, falls do not have to happen. Many of the causes of falling are preventable, but only if action is taken. As obvious as it may sound, a lack of knowledge about the causes of falling and how to prevent them contributes to falling.

“It’s important to understand that falling is not a normal part of aging. In order to stop falls from happening, it will help you to understand who is at greatest risk and why. While anyone can fall, there are certain conditions or situations putting older individuals at higher risk”.


FOR EXAMPLE:

Poor Eyesight. This can keep people from seeing hazards and objects in their path, and lead to trips or slips. Common eye conditions include cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. When combined with poor lighting, eye disorders interfere with safe mobility and increase the likelihood of falling.

Walking and Balance Problems.

Disorders such as stroke, arthritis, diabetes, and neurological disease may affect muscle strength and reaction time. As a result, balance may not be quite the same as it was.

Use of Medications.

Taking too much medication or the wrong combination of drugs can sometimes affect judgment, coordination and balance.

Depression or Stress.

This often causes people to pay less attention and be less alert to surrounding dangers in the environment.

Lack of exercise.

Inactivity results in weakened muscles, and lack of flexibility. This can change people’s balance and the way they walk and increase the chances of falling.

Preventing Falls
The good news is that many falls are preventable. By taking some simple steps elders can greatly reduce their chances of falling.


Doctor Visits

  • Get regular physical exams even if you’re feeling fine.
  • Ask the doctor to review your medications for any side effects that can affect balance. Make sure the doctor knows about all the medications you are taking (both prescription and over-the-counter drugs) so that harmful combinations of drugs can be prevented.
  • Tell the doctor about any falls or balance problems you may have experienced. The doctor may want to check you out for any medical conditions.


Stay Active

  • A regular program of physical activity is one of the best ways to decrease your chances of falling and improve your sense of well being and confidence.
  • Try to include such activities as walking, dancing, gardening, and stretching exercises to improve flexibility and balance.

 

Checklist for Spotting and Correcting Home Safety Hazards

At least half of all falls happen at home and generally take place when doing ordinary things like walking on stairs, getting up from bed or going to the bathroom. The best way to deal with any threats to safety in the home is through prevention. It’s a good idea to check your home for hazards that frequently cause slips, trips, or falls and eliminate as many potentially trouble spots as possible. By making your home safe now, you can avoid a fall later.

 

 

Hazard Solution
INADEQUATE LIGHTING
  • Keep lights on in rooms that you are walking through. The lighting in your home must be bright so you can avoid tripping over objects that are not easy to see.
  • Consider a nightlight for dark passageways.
  • During the day, open curtains and shades to let more sunlight in.
  • Install extra lighting along the pathway from bedroom to bathroom, by steps and stairways.

 

FLOOR SURFACESSliding Throw Rugs   Up-ended/Curled Carpet Edges 
  • Check all rugs and mats to make sure they are slip-resistant.
  • Consider either buying new rugs with non-slip backing or applying nonskid matting to backs of existing rugs to make them secure.

 

  • Use carpet tape to keep carpet edges from curling up.
CLUTTERED PATHWAYS
  • All pathways should be clear of objects and furnishings.
STEPS/STAIRS
  • Make sure stairs are well lit and free of clutter.
  • Use stairway handrails for going up or down steps.
  • Pick up things on the stairs. Always keep objects off stairs and steps.

 

 

Rein Tideiksaar Ph.D., PA-C (or Dr Rein as he is commonly referred to) is the president of FallPrevent, LLC, Blackwood, NJ, a consulting company that provides educational, legal and marketing services related to fall prevention in the elderly. Dr Tideiksaar is a gerontologist (health care professional who specializes in working with elderly patients) and a geriatric physician’s assistant. He has been active in the area of fall prevention for over 30 years, and has directed numerous research projects on falls and has developed fall prevention programs in the community, assisted living, home care, acute care hospital, and nursing facility setting. To learn more, check out the Doctor’s professional profile on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dr-rein/6/759/592. If you have any questions about preventing falls, please feel free to email Dr. Tideiksaar at drrein@verizon.net.