The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) report states that one in four U.S. citizens around 65 or above fall annually. These falls are also the leading cause of serious injuries, death, and hospitalizations. Fall prevention is more important than you think. Older people are likely to fall and injure themselves more poorly than younger people. Eight million out of 36 million falls annually result in head trauma or broken hip bones.
Since falling or tripping can lead to serious health issues or fatalities amongst the elderly, it is necessary to prevent them. You must also know why older adults are more prone to falling than younger ones. This can help you assess the situation more critically and develop safety precautions to prevent possible accidents. In this guide, we shall discuss why an older adult is at such a high risk of falling.
Deterioration of Physical Strength
As we age, we become less active due to natural aging processes. The reduced participation in physical exercise promotes sarcopenia, a reduction in physical strength and muscular form. A non-balanced diet, decreased flexibility, diminished bone mass and loss of coordination and balance are also symptoms of old age and reduced physical movement.
These contribute to decreased physical strength, which means the elderly are more prone to falling. The worst part is that during the recovery process, the greater chance of injury and reduced physical strength can easily turn any minor accident into a major health complication. The duration of recovery is prolonged and old age prevents the body from returning to the stronger, younger version easily, which also means added pain.
Blurry vision, poor eyesight, or the inability to clearly distinguish things from a reasonable distance are all significant reasons for tripping and falling. If you cannot see the path you are walking on clearly or fail to notice an obstacle until it is too late, it’s pretty easy to trip and fall. Outdoor hazards like stones, puddles, thresholds, uneven steps, or cracks become even more dangerous. Getting regular eye checkups and correctly powered eyeglasses is necessary. The elderly should also use bifocals for reading and wear single-lens glasses while moving about.
Certain chronic diseases that play around and deteriorate coordination, balance, control, physical strength, joint sturdiness, and cognitive function significantly contribute to falling.
These illnesses increase the chances of accidents and affect a victim’s ability to react, recover or respond to such a scenario.
Nerve damage, also known as peripheral neuropathy, causes numbing sensations in the feet, which reduces the alertness of an older adult to environmental factors. Some other diseases that can increase the chances of falling include:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
Surgery and Medicinal Side Effects
Replacement surgeries of the hips and other joint types can reduce mobility and cause pain, weakness, and discomfort, making older adults less active and responsive. This can be a massive reason for falls. Rehab and physical therapy are necessary to promote cognitive function and physical strength after surgery.
Since the elderly are generally prescribed an array of medications to control their physical conditions or illnesses, they can experience side effects too. These include dizziness, low blood pressure, and drowsiness. Some drugs that are known to cause these problems are:
- Cardiovascular drugs
A study suggested that polypharmacy amongst the elderly is quite common and is nearly 39%, meaning that most older people take five or more medicines daily. The use of multiple drugs can cause strong reactions and side effects. It is also important to note that dietary supplements and over-the-counter drugs can lead to adverse symptoms that can trigger a fall.
Environmental and Behavioral Issues
Many elderly tend to trip or fall inside or outside their homes. This could be due to several environmental issues, such as:
- Inadequate lighting
- Messes or clutter
- Cracked, uneven or slippery floors
- Absence of lifts, ramps, grab bars
- Poorly built staircases
Apart from environmental factors, behavioral issues can also result in falls. If an older person refuses to stay away from dangerous activities or use safety measures to prevent a fall, their unwillingness can cause an accident. Fall prevention is a lifestyle that the elderly need to adapt to. Lifting heavy weights, going up/down the stairs too often, going for a walk in the dark, refusing to wear proper footwear/eyeglasses, or refusing to use assistive devices can pose serious threats.
Knowing what can trigger falls for the elderly and why it is so common for them to trip can help you take the proper safety measures. Understanding how a fall can affect seniors long-term should be enough to coax them into following safety measures.