Elderly Falls - 5 Top Risk Factors & Prevention Tips

Bizhen Fu, Feb 23, 2014
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Elderly Falls

Among US residents over the age of 65, elderly falls are the #1 cause of trips to the ER. For seniors over 75, the consequences of a fall are statistically even more severe, as the risk of a fall-related death increases dramatically. A medical alert system can save precious time when a potentially life-threatening fall occurrs.

And while people typically think of falls as a major concern for more mobile seniors who livie independently, seniors living in partially assisted living, who might not receive 24/7 around the clock monitoring, are far from risk exempt. If there's a chance a senior could fall & not be found for over an hour, the damage done from a delayed response is often irreparable & means hugely diminished quality of life.    

The Facts on Senior Falls 

  • 62% of elderly victims who don't receive help within an hour won't be able to live independently after hospitalization. 
  • 90% of seniors who aren't helped within 6 hours will have to live in a nursing home. 
  • 70% of accidental deaths in the US are caused by senior falls.
  • $19,000 is the average cost per incident of a senior fall injury.

 The Golden Hour - Why getting help in the 1st hour matters 

Image Source: via Bay Alarm Medical

 

6 Common Risk Factors for Senior Falls

According to research and data from the National Safety Council (NSC) & the Center for Disease Control (CDC), some of the main risk factors associated with falls amongst the elderly are:

  1. Fall History: A history of falls is associated with an increased risk of recurring falls. If an elderly person has already fallen once they are more likely to fall again.
  2. Age: Risk of falling increases with age, especially for older women.
  3. Living alone: Elderly adults who live alone may tend to have greater ability to function but when you live alone, injuries from falls can be worse especially if the fall results in the person getting stuck on the floor, unable to get up.
  4. Medications: Many medications can be associated with increased risk of falling especially if an elderly person is taking multiple medications at once.
  5. Slippery Surfaces: The most common areas of the home where falls occur are bathrooms & kitchens. Anywhere that has the chance of water being on the floor is susceptible to a senior-related fall injury. 
  6. Home Layout: While most falls do occur in the bathroom, they also happen in any room where there are uneven surfaces, rugs w/abrupt edges, poor lighting or objects in commonly used pathways (i.e. between the bedroom & bathroom, on the way from the living room to the kitchen, etc.). 

Fall Prevention Checklist

While medical alert systems help improve response time & save precious minutes in a life-threatening emergency, we can't stress the benefits of a preventative measures enough. You simply can't put a price on being prepared when dealing with the care of a loved one. 

Here are some of the best things you can do to help prevent the chances of a fall. 

__ Use Bathroom Mats: Place non-slip mats over slippery bathroom surfaces, including showers & bathroom floor tiles. Be sure to place added emphasis on "fall proofing" the shower & bathroom floor, as most senior falls take place in the bathroom.   

__ Install Grab Bars: Utilizing grab bars and other supportive structures, both in the shower & next to toilets, as well as throughout the home, are a great way to help prevent falls in high risk, frequently used areas of the home.

__ Install Raised Toilet Seats: For many seniors, sitting down or standing up can be a challenge. Because of the high number of bathroom accidents among seniors, installing raised toilet seats can make using the bathroom safer and easier. 

__ Go on Daily Walks: We've heard it a thousand times, if we've heard it once, but regular exercise matters for fall prevention as much as it does for cardio vascular health. More frequent walks, ideally 2-3 walks daily, help seniors engage important stabilizer muscles in their core & legs, which in turn make for less shaky strides. Additionally, the fear of falling can cause seniors to be less active, which increases the possibility of their fears coming true.     

__ Use Assistive Devices: Regular exercise is hugely important. However, for seniors suffering from declining muscle strength, assistive sometimes devices are recommended. Walkers, wheelchairs, & stair-lifts, for example, are just some of the devices that can facilitate movement while reducing the risk for falls.

__ Review Medications: Single medications typically don't increase the risk for falls, but multiple medications can have serious implications on a senior’s health. Meet with your doctor as regularly as they recommend & be sure both the senior & any care takers are aware of the possible side effects of each medication.  

__ Update Corrective Vision: Are the senior's glasses prescriptions up to date? If not, visit an optometrist to make sure corrective vision needs are being met. This is a commonly overlooked preventative measure that can help massively.   

__ Improve In-home LightingFalls can certainly be the result of a miscalculated step due to poor eyesight. However, improving lighting can improve visual acuity, too. Ensure that rooms and passages are well lit to help seniors move freely without danger of tripping from unseen objects. Installing night-lights & motion sensors are popular energy efficient ways to add light to low-light areas of the home. 

__ Consider Sleeping Downstairs: Switching to a first floor room can be a bitter pill to swallow for a proud senior who has always slept in an upstairs bedroom, but it does help reduce the risks of falling down stairs & stair falls are, for obvious reasons, among the most serious. 

Our team of editors has reviewed the 10 Best Medical Alert Systems comparing price, communication range, alert hardware quality and monitoring services to help you make an informed decision.