Ways to Prevent Falls in the Elderly

Everyone must learn how to prevent falls, especially the elderly. This is because these become more dangerous as a person ages. 
Ways to Prevent Falls in the Elderly

Last update: 17 April, 2021

It’s important to prevent falls in the elderly so we all must be aware of this situation. Today’s article will describe the possible causes and evaluate the consequences these accidents can have on the health of an older person.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “falling” as an involuntary event in which a person loses balance and hits the ground or another firm surface that stops them.

Firstly, age is one of the main risk factors for falling, and its incidence increases progressively with age. Likewise, the risk of those accidents causing serious injury or even death increases with age.

Risk factors of falls and how to prevent them

These can be intrinsic or extrinsic, let’s take a closer look at the most common ones.

Intrinsic

These factors depend on the person, either due to the aging process itself or by the circumstances that occur at that time. Also, intrinsic factors are those that have the greatest influence and include the following:

  • Age
  • Having suffered a previous fall
  • Visual problems such as cataracts or decreased acuity
  • Muscular atrophy and musculoskeletal disorders
  • Vestibular problems that affect balance
  • Finally, cognitive impairment

Extrinsic

A woman helping a man.
Age is a risk factor for falls. However, many environmental factors can also play a role.

This includes factors that depend on the environment that surrounds the elderly. There may be poor lighting, clutter, uneven or slippery floors, carpets, or wires at home. Inappropriate footwear can also increase the risk of falls.

The bathroom is another critical place as there are bathtubs or shower trays without adequate handholds that can increase the risk of falls. In the street, some of the factors that increase the risk of falls for the elderly are:

  • Uneven or slippery pavement
  • Traffic lights of short duration
  • The absence of ramps

In means of transport, sudden movements and short times of ascent or descent also have an influence. The WHO also mentions that certain drugs can increase the risk of experiencing falls, especially those that exert their action at the central nervous system level.

Consequences of falls in elderly people

One can classify the consequences of falls into three groups.

1. Physical consequences

The physical consequences are those directly associated with the fall such as fractures, sprains, or injuries. An article published in the Revista Médica de Costa Rica y Centroamérica lists fractures and hematomas, among other injuries, as examples of these consequences.

Those falls that occur when an elderly person is home alone often make it impossible for them to get up. Furthermore, it can lead to hypothermia or dehydration, among other serious problems.

2. Psychological consequences

The emotional impact that a fall can have includes the fear that it’ll happen again, as indicated in the same study cited in the previous point. In many cases, this leads to an impairment of daily activities in those affected.

3. Socioeconomic consequences

Falls lead to an increase in the means needed to care for the affected person. At the health care level, it increases the number of consultations, hospital admissions, surgeries, and rehabilitation.

Ways to prevent falls in the elderly

You must make the necessary changes in the home to prevent falls, such as installing adequate lighting, keeping the bathroom floor dry, installing non-slip mats, and even adjusting the height of the bed. A manual for the prevention of falls in the elderly published by the Chilean Government offers important advice in this regard.

Are stairs in the house? Then, make sure that all the steps are even and non-slip, and there’s a fixed handrail on both sides of the stairs. Another useful document for basic preventive actions is a guide for the prevention of accidents in the elderly of the community of Madrid.

The main way to prevent falls

Canes can prevent falls in the elderly.
Making some adjustments within the home can help reduce the risk of falls in older adults.

Primary prevention encompasses a series of measures aimed at reducing the risk of falls in older people. The goal is for the older person to be autonomous so that they can stay in their own home as long as possible.

The WHO recommends the practice of light to moderate-intensity exercise. This is because it increases strength, reduces depression, improves joint pain, and lowers the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Also, they should periodically check both their eyes and ears and any device they use for any deficiencies.

Secondary mode

This consists of knowing the factors that lead to a fall and acting on them to keep it from happening again.

The third step to prevent falls

This includes all measures aimed at the necessary rehabilitation to restore the elderly person to an optimal state. Also, the affected person must be taught how to get up after the fall.

To do this, it’s recommended to turn the body to support the knees, to get into a crawling position, and get up by leaning on a nearby object.

Falls in the elderly are a major problem we must prevent

Estimates indicate that 30% of those over 65 and 50% of those over 80 years of age experience at least one fall a year. For this reason, prevention must include closeness to health professionals and other people who can aid them in their immediate environment.

As a final consideration, taking into account the recommendations mentioned above and the advice given in the above-mentioned sources, one can significantly improve the safety conditions for the elderly. Thus, preventing falls will be much more feasible.

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