8 Questions to Better Understand Elderly Falls
Falls are the primary cause of injuries among older adults. Each year, approximately 1 out of 3 adults aged 65 and older experiences a fall. Whether the fall happens at home, in a nursing home or outside, falling represents an important threat to seniors’ health, independence and overall safety.
Domilia wants to provide seniors and their families with all of the important information regarding falls in order to increase general awareness and more importantly, to help reduce the risk of falls. Understanding is the first step to safety.
1. What is a Fall?
A fall is a sudden accident, or unexpected event, in which the body is transferred to the ground or at a lower level than the previous one. There are multiple causes and risk factors for falling, meaning that almost everyone can experience a fall. However, older people have an increased risk of falling, and are more likely to experience injuries and recurrences.
2. What are the Causes of Falls?
Falls can be caused by many different factors, which is why it is oftentimes difficult to identify the exact cause. A combination of different risk factors is usually responsible for elderly falls, as the risk for falling increases with the number of risk factors. Here are some of these factors, divided in three categories: physical, environmental and behavioural.
Physical Risk Factors
- Decreasing vision
- Impaired balance
- Sensory disorders
- declining muscle strength
- Physical impairments involving blood pressure, thyroid, bones, cognition
Environmental Risk Factors
- Uneven or unstable living environment
- Inadequate lighting
- Rugs/carpets, cords/wires, clutter
- Uncomfortable or slippery shoes
- Ice and snow
Behavioural Risk Factors
- Over-the-counter/prescription medicines intake
- Lack of physical exercise/fitness
3. Who is at risk for falls?
Even though everyone can fall, adults over the age of 65 are the most at risk of falling. Each year, a third of those living at home experience a fall, and for those living in nursing homes, that proportion can go up to 50%.
As mentioned in the question above, the more risk factors a person has, the more at risk of falling they are. For example, an older adult with decreasing vision who recently had a change in their medication now has three conditions that increases their risk of falling.
4. What Happens After a Fall?
Not all fall is the same. Even though falling can represent an important threat to an elderly’s health, a good number of falls do not cause any injuries. However, when the fall is serious enough to cause some damage, the consequences can range from minor to severe. Here are some of the possible outcomes of a fall:
- Broken bones, such as a broken wrist, or a fractured hip or pelvis.
- Head injury. When falling, seniors might hit their head and suffer from serious brain injury, like a concussion.
- Loss of independence. Being injured makes it difficult to do daily tasks and activities, which can mean losing the ability to live independently. The recovery period can be temporary or permanent for some people.
- Fear. Falling is a scary experience that can sometimes trigger the fear of it happening again, especially when the person was previously injured. This post-fall fear can significantly reduce a senior's quality of life and independence.
5. What to do After a Fall?
Every elderly fall has to be taken seriously, even when no injuries occurred. Older adults are often reluctant to tell their doctor or their closed ones that they have fallen thinking that it will impact their living environment. It is, however, extremely important to notify a health professional of a fall.
In order to diagnose a fall and prevent recurrences, doctors will often run some regular physical tests and measurements, such as blood pressure, vision assessment and muscle strength. The results usually indicate whether extra precautions are to be taken.
6. When Should a Fall be a Concern for the Elderly?
According to the CDC, one out of five falls causes a serious injury, like a broken bone or head injury. Not suffering from an injury after a fall does not mean that it should be ignored. In fact, an older person who falls once is twice as likely to fall again. It is vital to inform health professionals each time someone aged 65 and older falls.
7. How can you Prevent Elderly Falls?
Luckily, there are many ways to help reduce the risk of falling in older people. Here are some of the most effective and common tips on fall prevention:
- Physical exercise. Light cardio or weight training is known to help with balance, strength and mental focus in the elderly.
- Home improvements. Getting rid of clutter, setting up adequate lighting and grab bars can positively affect the risk of falling for older people.
- Mobility aid devices. There are many assistive devices on the market today that can correspond to a wide range of needs. Check out all of the different Domilia products aiming to prevent elderly falls.
8. What about outdoor Falls?
Falls often occur indoors, but older adults are certainly at risk of falling outside of their home as well. Some conditions increase the risk of falls outdoors, such as:
- Winter. Icy sidewalks and streets are obvious fall hazards, making surfaces slippery and hard to navigate. Snow can also make walking more difficult for older people to keep their balance, and can make them tired or weaker.
- Lighting. An outdoor staircase or entryway that is poorly lit can increase the risk of falls. In contrast, too much sun can also be dangerous for seniors with vision impairments.
A better understanding of falls in the elderly is the first step towards a good prevention strategy. It is important to learn about the main risk factors, the most common consequences, the actions to take afterwards and the preventive measures regarding older adult falls, as it helps reduce the potential for serious injuries. This article aims to provide an overview of the problem of falls in the elderly, to promote safety and peace of mind.