People get weaker as they age, which increases their risk of falls. In Singapore, it is estimated that about one-third of its senior population has accidentally fallen at least once in their lifetime.
You never know what other injuries an elderly person may sustain from an accidental fall. It’s best to ensure their safety all the time. If you can’t monitor them or have someone look after the older adults at home, the least you can do is eliminate home hazards. You can also give them assistive devices they can use to reduce the risk of falling, especially when they’re alone.
Many different factors can cause falls in the elderly. If you are caring for an elderly loved one, you need to recognize the risk factors to prevent falls.
You never know, but what looks like simple falls in the elderly may lead to a serious injury that can compromise muscle strength and the overall health of older people.
How do you decrease the risk of falls of a family member? Where do falls commonly happen? And what fall prevention tips must you be aware of?
The Effects of Falls on the Elderly
The consequences of falls in the elderly vary depending on the causes and how severe the fall is. However, even minor falls in older people can lead to serious physical injuries, such as spine, ankle, arm, or hip fractures. Major falls can affect the head, requiring immediate medical care to ensure the person doesn’t sustain complications or brain damage.
Falls are dangerous to anyone, but more so to seniors with osteoporosis. This is a condition that makes a person’s bones brittle and weak. Seniors with osteoporosis must take extra precautions to prevent falls because they are more prone to them. They will also suffer from worse consequences when they do.
Many seniors who have experienced falling suffer the most from hip injuries. 13% of Singaporeans 65 and above experience falls last 2010 in a study from Duke-NUS Medical School. Here is also another piece of data from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:
- Only 25% will completely recover out of all the seniors who broke their hips due to falls.
- About 40% of older adults who broke their hips from falls will require admission to a nursing home. This is because they’d find it hard to do activities of daily living, such as toileting, dressing, bathing, and eating.
- Half of the percentage of seniors who suffered from broken hips due to falls would need elderly assistive devices, such as a walker or cane, for the rest of their lives.
- Around 20% of older adults whose injuries sustained from falls include broken hips would suffer more and might die within a year or so after the fall.
Aside from broken bones, head injuries, joint pain, and other physical injuries, seniors may suffer psychologically from falls. Here are some samples:
- Fear of falling, leading to social withdrawal
- Loss of confidence
- Feeling bad about losing their autonomy in doing things without help
Where Do Seniors Typically Experience Falls?
Seniors have a high risk of falls regardless of where they are. This is mainly due to physical limitations, such as poor vision, poor balance, and muscle weakness.
In Singapore, many falls (about 63%) happen at home. This is why it is crucial to implement home modifications when caring for an ageing member of the family. You need to do certain fall-proofing measures at home to make the living space of an elderly person safe and free from potential fall hazards.
Moreso, it may sound surprising, but most falls occur on flat surfaces. Even in nursing homes or centres for elder care in Singapore, many seniors lose balance and slip while going in or out of the bathroom.
All About the Risk Factors and Causes of Elderly Falls
Aside from fall prevention or learning ways to prevent falls, you must also understand the risk factors that can contribute to elderly falls. It is said that falling is the leading cause of injury among seniors in Singapore. Here’s a look at the probable causes of these falls:
Side effects of medicines
Due to their side effects, medications for depression, high blood pressure, and sleep issues can potentially cause falls. Drowsiness, dizziness, and a lack of balance are typical side effects of these drugs.
Moreover, patients taking medications for diabetes and heart disease may often feel unsteady when standing, which can result in a fall.
Elderly people who don’t exercise have weak muscles. It makes them easily lose their balance, which can lead to the potential of falling. Exercise is crucial, regardless of a person’s age, to improve balance and make the bones strong.
Your muscles will degenerate and weaken the longer you stay inactive. Lack of physical activity can result in medical problems and higher risk factors of falling. This is why you must make exercise part of your routine even as you age. You can take a few moments of your day to exercise and spend time in a physical activity of your choice.
Regular exercise doesn’t have to be difficult. You can choose something easy as tai chi, but make sure you honour the commitment of doing it every day. The practice of its movements helps reduce joint pain and makes the bones strong. If you are up for the challenge, you can do water workouts once or twice a week. They will work on your bone health like you are undergoing a check-up with a physical therapist.
Risks related to a community environment
There are safety hazards for seniors, no matter where they are. Caregivers must constantly be aware of their patient’s risk of losing balance due to many factors in a home or community environment.
These factors include wet floors, lack of grab bars, dim lighting, and cluttered surroundings.
To prevent future falls, you must ensure the home environment for seniors has clear pathways. Check the lights and light switches, place non-slip mats in areas with wet floors, and make all spaces free from a loved one’s heightened risk of falling.
Seniors who have problems with one foot or both feet are prone to falling. These problems may arise from health conditions like inflamed tendons, connective tissue injuries, and diabetic neuropathy. The latter is a medical condition wherein high blood sugar severely damages the legs and feet.
Aside from medical conditions, the risk of falling due to foot problems may also increase in seniors who like wearing inappropriate footwear. Avoid wearing high heels, wedges, and slippery footwear as you age. They may be a normal part of your outfit when you were younger. But as you age, wearing safe and age-appropriate footwear is more crucial.
Poor hearing and eyesight
Poor eyesight may be caused by diseases such as glaucoma and dry eyes. But it also happens typically to most people as they age. This is the same with the decline of your hearing.
Both problems increase a person’s risk of falling. This is more dangerous to seniors with glaucoma or cataracts. Such eye issues give them trouble navigating uneven terrain and identifying potential dangers.
How to Help Seniors When They Fall
When a senior loved one falls, the first and perhaps most important thing to do is to remain cool and not panic. As you are their initial point of contact, the last thing you want is to be unable to provide them with the assistance they need.
Assess the situation first and foremost. Check them up, paying particular attention to the area around the head for any injuries. Find out if they are in pain and where it is coming from.
Only if there are no indications of shattered bones or other significant injuries can you help them slowly rise or slowly sit. Assist them by ensuring they have a sturdy chair they can grip onto for support. Stop if your loved one feels tired, stuck, or uncomfortable while attempting to climb the stairs.
Support the patient but never attempt to lift their weight. If they are finding it hard to stand or sit, even with assistance, call the medics for help.
Fall Prevention and Other Tips to Prevent Falls In Seniors
How to prevent falls and future falls in seniors? Here are some simple tips to prevent sudden drops and prevent slips of your senior loved ones.
Maintain healthy bones
Bones are more prone to breaking when they are weak, which can lead to osteoporosis. You can maintain strong bones by consuming enough calcium-rich foods daily and fatty fish. A regular dose of vitamin D from sunlight is also essential in making the bones stronger.
The easiest way to get a sufficient daily dose of vitamin D is to take a stroll outdoors when the sun is up. Keep it at 15 to 30 minutes. And avoid the sun when it’s too hot outside or from 10:30 in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon. This is good for your bones and maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
Frequent exercise for fall prevention
You can improve your endurance by performing moderate-intensity aerobic exercises for 150–300 minutes per week. At least three days a week, try to engage in various physical activities, focusing on strengthening, stabilizing, and flexibility exercises.
For instance, tai chi, Pilates, or swimming can help build your muscles and enhance your balance. Meanwhile, cardiovascular activities like brisk walking, Zumba, or cycling can boost cardiovascular health and maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
Moreover, regular exercises, especially as you get older, will lessen the likelihood of suffering from postural hypotension. You don’t have to commit to physically enduring exercises if you can’t. It’s already a good fall prevention measure when you regularly exercise, regardless of the activity.
Wear non-slip shoes
Choosing shoes that provide a firm grip on the ground is crucial, lowering your risk of a fall. Ensure that your shoes are comfortable and well-fitting to prevent damage.
Make your home safer
Aside from disease control or having phone numbers of emergency departments handy, you must make your home safe for everyone living in it, especially older adults. Instead of consulting with an occupational therapist or a physical therapist and going on a trip to a national institute dealing with injuries of seniors, it will be better to make your home safe from falls by doing the following fall prevention measures:
- Clear the walkways.
- Tuck and secure the wires.
- Ensure flooring is always dry, especially in the bathroom and kitchen areas.
- Install grab bars and other assistive devices in the different areas of the house.
- Put things important to seniors in places where they can easily reach them.
- Improve lighting around the house.
- Choose furniture or a bed where seniors can sit with their feet touching the fall. This will boost their blood flow and balance and avoid the risk of a fall.
Consult with your doctor about your meds
If you are undergoing sessions with a physical therapist, ask about the activities you can engage in to improve your balance. Meanwhile, if you’re under any medications, constantly check with your doctor and ask if you can have them changed. Do this if you think the meds are causing coordination and balance impairment that heightens your risk of suffering from a fall.
Preventing senior falls is better than treating the consequences caused by accidental slips. While getting older is a natural part of life, falling is not. But if this occurs to a senior family member, be sure to speak with your doctor to determine the extent of the effects of the fall and how to treat them.
After a fall, a senior’s mobility may be restricted, making it challenging to get to and from medical appointments or even carry out regular tasks at home. Consider hiring an expert medical escort to transport patients in these circumstances. Home care is another practical choice that can assist elders with daily activities and help them restore strength, manage pain, and heal from any injuries experienced in a fall.
If you need assistance regarding elderly care in Singapore, RC Caregivers is here to help. We offer personal and quality services that will prevent a fall and improve the quality of their lives and well-being. You can check our site, download our app, or click here to learn more.