10 Things You Can Do To Prevent Falls by: Anita Kamiel, R.N., M.P.S.

friendly caregiver talking to senior woman outdoors


It used to not be this way.

How many times have you heard someone say their father or mother was fine before he or she fell? For many older adults, an unexpected fall can touch off a series of events that end in serious or fatal complications. It can lead to extended hospital stays and disabling conditions that make living independently more of a challenge.

As we age, we begin to lose our balance. Due to their unsteadiness, the elderly are terribly afraid of falling and tend to view themselves as fragile. This is one of the underlying reasons they avoid commonplace activities like walking, shopping and even socializing. Their physical reality combined with their fears often exacerbates their feelings of isolation and depression, all too common in this group.


May be the most serious concern for the elderly.

The National Institute of Health maintains that “falls are the number one cause of fractures, hospital admissions for trauma, loss of independence, and injury deaths” among those 65 and older in the US making fall prevention in the elderly a high priority. The risk only increases as we age with one in five people 85 and older reporting a fall more than once a year compared to one in 10 of those between 65 and 74. Falls in the elderly are often fatal or have long term consequences for performing their activities of daily living.

Elderly patients must be counseled on how to prevent falls in terms of their surroundings and medications. Certain drugs can affect their already compromised sense of balance. They include:

  • anti-seizure drugs (anticonvulsants)
  • hypertensive (high blood pressure) drugs
  • sedatives
  • tranquilizers
  • anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)
  • aminoglycosides (a type of antibiotic)
  • diuretics
  • vasodilators
  • certain analgesics (painkillers)
  • certain chemotherapeutics (anti-cancer drugs).

Things you can do.

The National Institute on Aging has a handy tip sheet at Go4Life on preventing falls.

Here are 10 things you can do to prevent falls:

  1. Regular exercise, especially those that work on balance like yoga and tai chi, can help steady the elderly adult as can weight-bearing exercises that slow bone loss and lower-body strengthening exercises.
  2. Elderproofing a home where most falls occur while doing mundane tasks is critical. Tripping hazards from carpets, wires, and clutter must be removed. Half of all falls at home happen in the bathroom and a misstep in this room can spell disaster. Grab bars in places like the shower, tub and toilet as well as proper lighting are essential.
  3. Make regular eye and hearing check-ups to ensure properly fitted glasses with the optimal prescription. Wearing bifocals while walking or on steps may blur the vision enough to cause falls. Proper hearing can ensure no cues are missed.
  4. Regular dizziness may indicate an underlying medical condition with respect to blood pressure, circulation, or sensory issues which should be checked out by a physician.
  5. Physical therapy may be useful for improving balance and walking confidence.
  6. Have the doctor or pharmacist review all medications to identify those most likely to cause dizziness and drowsiness.
  7. Stand up slowly from a seated or lying position.
  8. Wear rubber soled shoes to avoid slipping.
  9. Limit the amount of alcohol consumed.
  10. Get enough sleep.

Interestingly, Ritalin may help prevent falls. In an encouraging breakthrough, Ben Gurion University researchers have found that a single dose of the drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy, helps improve balance during walking reducing the risk of falls among seniors. While they admit the results may be due to the improved focus brought about by the medication, they also feel that Ritalin actually has a direct influence on parts of the brain that deal with motor and balance control.


Prevention is key.

Falls can be prevented and a good caregiver can minimize any negative long term effects if one does occur. The importance of caregivers being familiar with maintaining safe environments and routines for the elderly cannot be overstated. Many geriatric social workers and occupational therapists can help set up a safe living space for an elderly person. If you don’t know of one, a home healthcare agency should be able to refer one to you.


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Anita Kamiel, RN, MPS, is the founder and owner of David York Home Healthcare Agency, licensed by the State of New York. She holds a master’s degree in gerontological administration and is fully acquainted with all factors related to eldercare services and the latest guidelines for seniors. Thirty years ago, she realized the need for affordable, quality home health aide services provided and supervised by caring individuals. You can contact her at 718-376-7755 or at www.davidyorkagency.com. David York Agency is also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Failure: Screening & Reporting Falls in Elderly

There seems to be a big gap with respect to caring for the elderly – reporting and screening for falls. The responsibility for this failure falls to both the elderly experiencing the falls as well as their caregivers and healthcare providers.

453263573A study out of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research shows 12.6% of
California’s elderly population fall more than one time a year and most do not report it to their medical provider. When they do report the event, the healthcare professional treating them seem to neglect counseling them on fall prevention in 40% of the cases.

Fall prevention is critical to the elderly since it is the leading cause for injury and hospitalization among those 65 and older and the risk only increases as they age. One in 5 people 85 and older report falling more than once a year versus 1 in 10 of those between 65 and 74. The outcomes of a fall in the elderly are often fatal or, at best, have long term consequences for performing their activities of daily living.

While it is incumbent on healthcare professionals to provide counseling to all their elderly patients, these providers must also be informed of any falls by those they treat. Elderly patients must be encouraged to report any falls so that they can be counseled how to prevent falls and to elder proof their surroundings. Also, they need to warn them about certain medications that can exacerbate their lack of balance which naturally declines as they age. Those medications include*:

  • anti-seizure drugs (anticonvulsants)
  • hypertensive (high blood pressure) drugs
  • sedatives
  • tranquilizers
  • anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)
  • aminoglycosides (a type of antibiotic)
  • diuretics
  • vasodilators
  • certain analgesics (painkillers)
  • certain chemotherapeutics (anti-cancer drugs).

*From NIH Senior Health: Balance Problems: Causes and Prevention

 

At David York Home Healthcare Agency, we could provide direction to caregivers as to how to manage the total care of your senior loved one. David York Agency provides skilled home health aide services for the elderly in New York in their homes and is abreast of all the latest guidelines for seniors.  Our home health aides are certified and fully trained on how to safely care for the elderly. We would be happy to discuss your case with you.  Please call us at (718) 376-7755 or visit our website.  You can also like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.