April 23, 2021
Reading Time 4 min.

Falls Free Initiative to Prevent Growing Fall-Related Injuries in the Elderly

Falling presents a growing risk to the health and well being of seniors all around America. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported falls are among the leading causes of injury for older adults, resulting in hip fractures and head trauma, and even death. Falls can be prevented by taking the necessary steps to remain fall free.

Various organizations around America are on a mission to partner with communities and raise awareness on ways to improve fall prevention among older adults. One of these is the National Council on Aging (NCOA) with their Falls Free Initiative. Every 13 seconds, an elderly person experiences a fall-related injury for which they require treatment. The falls free initiative was designed to prevent as many of these potential injuries as possible.

No one wants an elderly loved one to trip on a rug, slip on a wet floor or lose their balance and fall. Often, it results in a serious injury that is detrimental to their independence and may even lead to disability. 

Why Seniors Should Work at Remaining Fall Free 

One in three individuals over the age of 65 fall every year, which is why the fear of falling is a real concern among seniors. This can prevent the elderly from venturing out and participating in walking and other social activities. 

We should not allow the fear of falling stand in the way of being active, but rather look for ways to prevent falling for our seniors. When you help your loved one to overcome this fear, they can remain physically active and ward off future falls. 

Risk Factors and Causes for Falls 

Man unable to prevent fall hears about fall free initiative.

Their eyesight and hearing might fail and be one of the leading factors that cause a fall. Others find their reflexes or balance is not what it used to be due to problems with their thyroid, heart disease, or diabetes. Even certain medications make your loved one feel sleepy or dizzy and may result in losing their balance and falling. 

There are many internal factors related to falling including gait problems, low blood pressure in the elderly, and muscle weakness. External factors such as wearing the wrong shoes like high heels, loose-fitting flops, or backless shoes can also increase the risk of falling. 

Taking Steps to Help Your Loved One Remain Fall Free

Falling accidents rarely happen by chance alone. By helping take care of their health and implementing exercises to prevent falling seniors, you are already going in the right direction to help your aging parent to remain fall free. Following are a couple of tips to avoid falls: 

  • Keep them physically active – Plan exercise programs that are suited for your loved one and that they enjoy. After all, regular exercise will boost their muscle strength and flexibility. Weight-bearing activities like stair climbing and walking. Tai Chi and dancing are excellent activities to participate in to maintain activity.
  • Yearly appointment for hearing and vision – Small changes in their hearing ability and eyesight may result in a falling incident. With new glasses, make sure there is time to get used to them. Increased vigilance is needed until their eyes have adjusted.
  • Tell their physician or pharmacist if you notice that your medication makes you dizzy. Have them review all prescribed medications. Ask if there is an alternative if needed.
  • Try to encourage them to get enough rest. With age comes increased difficulty at times with sleeping and circadian rhythms. If they are more alert, they may be able to prevent falling. 
  • Encourage limits for alcohol intake: Any alcohol can inhibit reflexes and increase unsteadiness, especially in the elderly. 
  • Encourage a pause after first standing up. It takes time for the aging vascular system to catch up to quick movements against gravity. This causes a temporary drop in blood pressure. If dizziness is present upon standing, wait for it to resolve.
  • Encourage the use of assistive devices such as a walker or a cane if they are unsteady on their feet. A physical or occupational therapist can make the recommendation, ensure proper fit and teach proper technique.
  • Encourage rubber-soled, non-skid, and low-heeled footwear. Avoid shoes with smooth soles. 

What Should You Do If Your Loved One Falls? 

Improper footwear leads to falls.

You may be there with them or somewhere else when you receive a call say they have fallen. If this should ever happen to you, remain calm, breathe in deeply a couple of times tell them to stay where they are to get over the shock of falling. 

Next, determine if they are hurt before attempting to help them get up. Find out if they hit their head, if they know what caused the fall and how they landed. Take time with the assessment as you do not want to make an injury worse. 

If you think everything is okay, find a sturdy chair. If one is not available, crawling to a couch or stairs or other solid piece of furniture may be the next best move. Help them roll onto their side, then slowly get up to hands and knees. From there, have them prop on elbows on the chair or other sturdy surface. Next move to get one foot flat on the ground. Then help them rise up until they have both hands on the chair and both feet flat on the floor. Next slowly turn and have a seat to continue to assess until they feel like they have returned to normal.

If they are too injured to get up or show intense pain with an attempt to get up, call 911 as they will need to be assessed for significant injury in the ER. Be sure they have a cell phone or emergency alert system when no one is around.

Summary

Both the CDC and the NCOA have identified falling as the the leading cause of injury death among older Americans. Every second of the day, an older adult falls in the U.S. There are identifiable risk factors and causes for falls which when identified can lead to fall prevention. Listed above are actionable steps we can take to help our loved ones reduce the risk of fall and injury. A quick assessment is needed to determine the next steps if your elderly parent does have a fall.

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That's all for today.

Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!

Winn

Articles of Interest:

  1. CAREGIVER BURNOUT AND STRESS - SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT
  2. CARING FOR THE AGING AT HOME - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
  3. PREVENTION OF FALLING AT HOME - STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO PREVENT FALLING
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