Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries for adults over the age of 65. They can result in serious hip fractures, broken bones, head injuries and loss of consciousness, which could lead to further complications and even a disability.
The risk of falling can often prevent a person from being social or active, as they become fearful, particularly if they are living independently. Fortunately, there are simple ways to reduce the risk of falling and maintain an active, sociable and healthy life.
Check for hearing problems
One of the common causes of falling is a loss of balance, which can be a result of poor hearing. As we get older, our hearing can naturally deteriorate and may require treatment or a hearing aid.
Hearing difficulty could also be a result of build-up of ear wax or an ear infection, so getting your loved one’s ears tested could be one of the first preventative measures to take.
Check for eyesight changes
Similarly to our hearing, our eyesight can worsen as we get older and lead to trips, stumbles and falls. When you reach 65, you should get your eyes tested at least every 2 years, and more frequently if you suffer from headaches or if you notice any changes in your vision. A pair of glasses could be the simple solution to helping improve balance and coordination.
Consult with your doctor about your medication
Some medications given to elderly patients can have the side effects of dizziness, faint spells and fatigue. Ensure your doctor is aware if your loved one experiences any of these symptoms, so you can discuss some preventative measures, such as changing the dosage or looking at alternatives, as well as the timings of taking the medication.
Participating in regular exercise helps improve our muscle and bone strength and will reduce the risk and development of osteoporosis, which is common in older adults. Exercises which are designed to improve strength can reduce the risk of falling and also improve posture, flexibility and coordination.
Speak to your GP or local community centre about group exercise classes or look at home-based workout plans.
Wear appropriate shoes
Preventing a fall can be as simple as wearing the appropriate footwear or wearing shoes at all! Flat, well-fitted shoes that provide comfort and support, such as trainers, are ideal for walking in. Socks may be comfortable to wear at home, but they can put you at greater risk of slipping, particularly on non-carpeted floors. Instead, wear non-slip socks or slippers that have grips on the soles of the feet.
Fall-proof your home
Stairs present a significant falling risk, so if possible, living on one level can help reduce the risk of falls or trips up or down the stairs. However, if this is not possible, there are some fall-proofing additions you can add to your home, such as grab bars and handrails, particularly in stairwells, hallways and bathrooms. Rugs and mats on the floors can also be a trip hazard, as well as clutter, trailing wires and unnecessary furniture. Lastly, make sure your home is well-lit and that you have sufficient access to light switches around the house, particularly if you need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. You could even install motion-activated lights; some can be plugged straight into wall sockets and come on as and when needed.
Following these simple tips could prevent a fall and in a worse case scenario, a fatal or life-threatening injury. Be sure to speak to your doctor or GP if you begin to regularly lose your balance or are experiencing any side effects of medicine that make you feel dizzy or fatigued.