Senior Fall Prevention

Ken Teegardin Written by Ken Teegardin
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Chief Editor | Caregiver

Falls are the leading cause of deaths related to injury for people age 65 and older. The falls that don't kill you can change your life. Simple falls can decrease your mobility. Broken bones may not heal properly. And these bones can be more likely to break in the future.

Senior Fall Prevention

Consider this: One out of three seniors fall every year. Two-thirds who fall will fall again within six months. In 2009, 2.2 million seniors were treated in emergency departments; over 581,000 of these patients were hospitalized.

With these numbers, senior fall prevention should be a priority for both seniors and for those with seniors in their lives.

Seniors at Risk

Falling isn’t normal, but for seniors the risks of falling are higher for several reasons:

As seniors, your gait and balance isn’t as good as it once was. Your sensory perception may not be as sharp as when you were younger. The use of some medications may affect your balance. Your muscle strength probably isn’t what it used to be.

Men are more likely to die from a fall than women. But women are more likely to be injured in a fall than men. For example, hip fracture rates for women are more than twice that for men.

Those age 75 and older who fall are up to five times more likely to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer than those age 65 to 74.

The chances of serious injury from falling for seniors 85 and older are four times that for those 65 to 74.

Osteoporosis—the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density—increases a person’s risk of a hip fracture from a fall.

Results of Falls

  • Up to 30% of seniors who fall suffer injuries such as hip fractures, hip lacerations, or head traumas.
  • Falls are the most common cause of brain injuries for seniors.
  • Falls are the most common cause of fractures. These include fractures of the hip, spine, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm and hand.
  • Seniors who fall may develop a fear of falling. This can lead to a decrease of mobility and can actually increase the risk of falling again.

Senior Fall Prevention

Seniors can take a number of precautions to prevent falls.

  • Exercise regularly. Do exercises that will increase leg strength, improve balance and increase flexibility. Consider Tai Chi, Yoga, and bicycling.
  • Review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist. You’ll want to reduce or eliminate those that cause dizziness or drowsiness.
  • Get your eyes checked by an optometrist at least once a year.
  • Lower your hip fracture risk by getting daily-recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D. and get screened and treated for osteoporosis.
  • Floors: move furniture that’s in your way. Use double-sided tape so throw rugs won’t slip. Pick up items that are on the floor. Coil telephone and electrical wires next to the wall. Keep items off the stairs. Fix loose or uneven steps. Make sure your stairway is lighted and have switches at the top and bottom of the stairs. Make sure stair carpeting is secure. Make sure stair handrails are secure and that they’re on both sides the entire length of the stairs.
  • Kitchen: Keep often used items in lower, easy-to-reach shelves or cabinets. If you have a stepstool, make sure it’s solid.
  • Bathroom: Put a non-slip mat or self-stick strips on your shower or tub floor. If you need it, install grab bars near the toilet and in the shower.
  • Bedroom: Make sure the path to your bed is clutter free. Install a night-light in your room.
  • When using a ladder, make sure both feet and at least one hand are on the ladder.
  • Wear shoes inside for better support and grip. Avoid slippers.
  • Get up slowly after lying or sitting down.
  • Consider buying an alarm you can activate in the event of a fall.

Summary

Senior fall prevention should be a serious topic for seniors and those with seniors in their lives. The statistics show that the problem is real and it can be serious. Fortunately, you can mitigate the risks with some preventative measures at home and exercise to strengthen your balance.

To see ways to make your home life easier and safer, see our "Assistive Technology Devices" article. 

Updated: Apr 04, 2011

Comments

[1] Comment.
Robert Luttrell On Jul 19, 2013
This still does not answer the question how do you prevent a 95 year old women who has average dementia from falling out of bed at night. She does not function sufficiently to remember to call a nurse to help her our of bed. What happen to an older solution of installing guard rails on the beds so as they wakeup sufficiently for the monitoring nurse to see or hear them and go and help them to the bathroom, etc.