Fall prevention is an essential part of in home care services, especially for those individuals facing physical, medical or cognitive challenges.  Falls are the number one reason for admission to skilled nursing facilities and they are a major factor in 40 % of all admissions for any reason.   One in three seniors fall each year. 

Falls may be expected or routine for young children, but they can be devastating for older adults and can happen with even routine activities if basic steps are not taken to minimize the risk. 

While the young boy with the broken arm loves the attention he gets from his classmates, some elderly family members may minimize falls or hide them altogether.  A fall might mean a loss of independence, a sign of growing physical weakness, an “excuse” for the “kids” to start talking about nursing homes.

Why do older people fall more often?  

Factors that may hinder our balance and make us more likely to fall include medical issues, physical issues, and cognitive issues.

Medical Issues that lead to more falls

From a medical standpoint, there are some common reasons a person’s balance is compromised.  Arthritis can make it difficult or painful to move around.   High or low blood pressure may lead to dizziness.   Diabetes can lead to nerve damage and numbness in the feet.  Osteoporosis, or brittle bones, makes injury from a fall more likely.  Parkinson’s causes a person to have diminishing control over their movements.  Stroke or brain injuries affect balance.  Even incontinence can cause falls, because the senior may rush to get to a restroom and move too quickly.

Medications are another big issue, with side-effects and interactions.  

Physical Issues that lead to falls

Some physical causes of falls include generalized weakness, a simple loss of muscle over time.  This causes people to have difficulty walking and balancing.  A lack of physical activity makes falls more likely.   This can be hard because many seniors who fall are told, “stop trying to do so much or go so many places, take it easier.”   The senior may become even more inactive, when the opposite is often more beneficial.  Dehydration is another physical cause for falls.

Cognitive Issues that influence falls 

Dementia poses a higher risk of falls, especially when the senior is no longer familiar with his or her surroundings or can’t remember the purpose of items, such as a walker or cane.   Some falls are linked to denial, a person not accepting that they are aging.  

Depression may cause a senior to not take medications correctly.  Also, distractions can lead to falls.  Some seniors are not able to focus on several things at once, so if they are walking while reading a card or talking on a phone they may be more likely to trip. (This is not limited to seniors, of course, multi-tasking can lead to falls for people of any age!)

Finally, fear can cause falls.  Fear of falling again may make the senior less active, less strong and flexible.  Fear may even cause a senior to change how they would normally walk.

Steps to take to limit falls

1. Talk to your doctor about falls or your fear of a fall, request a fall risk assessment, ask for referrals to physical therapy or occupational therapy, or vision.

2. Do the opposite of “taking it easy” –  exercise.  Get involved with balance exercises with a group.  Try Tai Chi, Feeling Fit, Silver Age Yoga, Silver sneakers, etc.  Try to get 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.  (That’s 2 miles of brisk walking or dancing.)

3. Maintain good overall health.  Strive for good general nutrition, including enough water, plenty of calcium and vitamin D,  and not too much alcohol consumption. 

In home care services can help 

At Home Nursing Care can help with quality caregiving or private duty nursing. In home care services such as assistance with transfers and ambulation, help with activities of daily living and range of motion can help seniors improve at home with greater safety.  Our nurses can conduct a fall assessment and a home safety assessment.  Our care plans address activities to prevent falls and safety measure to take.  Companions and personal care attendants can assist with transfers or ambulation to make moving around more comfortable and safe for our elderly clients.