Our last posting, Fall Prevention (Part 1 of 3), described how a single fall quickly transformed one woman’s life from independence and freedom to dependence and loss. We shared this story as the first step to fall prevention is to understand just how dangerous one fall can be.
The second step is to understand that we, and our loved ones, have an increased risk of falling as we age.
Why are Seniors More at Risk of Falling?
There are some specific physical changes that make us more susceptible to a fall than when we were younger.
- Vision decline. Some falls occur because of an inability to see tripping hazards such as an object on the ground, a curb, step, or transition piece. In addition, older eyes may not adjust as quickly when moving from a dark environment to the bright outdoors or vice versa.
- Weakness in legs. Other falls occur because leg weakness makes it more difficult to walk and to adjust to something unexpected such as a curb, an object on the floor, or a more slippery surface. Weakness in legs can also keep seniors from lifting their feet appropriately putting them more at risk for a fall caused by something as simple as a throw rug or a door threshold.
- Drug Effects or Interactions. Some drugs can interact to cause dizziness or balance issues. Other drugs can affect the amount of blood flow to the brain, increasing a person’s fall risk. One reason this affects seniors more is because, on average, seniors take more prescription medications. A recent IMS Health study found that the annual per capital prescriptions filled in North Carolina for those 19-64 was half the number filled for those 65+ (10.4 compared with 21.6). In the US as a whole, the number of prescriptions was 12.4 those under 65 compared with 27 for those 65+. Dizziness is not only a side effect of some medications, but also a side effect of stopping some medications. While this only addresses the use of prescription medications, dizziness can also be a side effect of some over-the-counter medications.
So How Can We Prevent Falls?
There are a number of different areas to consider. We have listed these areas below and will go into more detail on each of them in our next and final posting of this Fall Prevention series.
- Know the side effects of your medications.
- Make your home a safe environment.
- Slow down, especially when changing position.
- Wear safe footwear.
- Do NOT make it a habit to furniture walk.
- Use your cane or walker if you have one.
- Take care of the rest of your physical health.
- Let someone know if you are having dizzy spells or balance issues!