Since June is Home Safety Month, now is a great time to talk about falls. Did you know that one in three older adults falls every year? And that falls are the leading cause of injuries (including those that lead to death) for people age 65 and up? Falls are a big danger, but the good news is that you can take steps to prevent them.
Falls can happen to anyone. However, there are certain fall risk factors that make some people more likely to fall than others. Do you have a loved one who is age 65 or over? Do you worry that he or she may be at risk for falls?
Read these common risk factors for falls to help you assess the danger:
Vision changes: As we age, our eyes change. One of the changes that commonly happens is that the lens in the eye becomes cloudy so that less light reaches the retina, worsening vision. The lens may also not focus properly. Your loved one may have trouble seeing contrasting edges, and this can mean that she doesn’t notice tripping hazards. To prevent falls resulting from vision changes, get your loved one’s eyes checked regularly.
Balance changes: Many people experience changes in balance and coordination as they age. Older adults can have reduced flexibility and an unsteady gait, which can make falls more likely. The best way to prevent balance changes is to stay active. Encourage your loved one to take walks or try a new physical activity, such as yoga. If you notice that your loved one seems unsteady on his feet, talk to his doctor, who may recommend a cane or walker.
Medications: Certain medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) can cause dizziness or dehydration, both of which can make falls more likely. Another concern is interactions between certain medications that can also produce these side effects. To prevent medications from causing a fall, talk to your loved one’s pharmacist about the potential risks.
Chronic health conditions: Does your loved one have a chronic health condition like stroke, diabetes, or arthritis? He or she is not alone: More than 90 percent of older adults are living with at least one chronic condition. Chronic conditions can unfortunately increase the risk of falls, owing to a variety of factors such as inactivity, pain, or depression. Talk to your loved one’s doctor to see if chronic conditions are putting them at risk.
Home safety problems: Most seniors do not modify their homes as their grow older. All of a sudden, they might find themselves fumbling in a dark corner or tripping over a rug that’s always been there. Use our home safety checklist to go through your loved one’s home and eliminate many of the hidden dangers that can cause falls.
Do you care for someone who has experienced a fall? Were there risk factors that went unidentified at the time? Share your story in the comments!
For more information, please review our Home Safety Resources.