The elderly are at high risk of falling. Age-related changes have contributed to such risk factors.
Aside from other health conditions, falls in older adults deteriorate their quality of life.
With this, falls prevention to address accidents and injuries has been one significant public health issue.
Why Do the Elderly Keep Falling?
Many age-related changes happen as a person grows older. Along with this progression, they also tend to be frail.
Older adults with fragile bones are at higher risk of falling even while standing. This makes them prone to fractures and other serious injuries.
Several other risk factors cause falls among the elderly:
1. Poor Vision
Older adults with poor eyesight fail to see impediments that could lead them to fall.
They hardly see objects that could cause them to trip.
2. Poor Balance
The elderly often have poor balance due to age-related health conditions or medication like tranquilizers or antidepressants.
This decreases their ability to stand upright and walk straight, causing them to fall or meet accidents.
3. Lack of Physical Activity
Physical activity helps in strengthening the bones and muscles. However, older adults are already weak and can’t sustain intense physical activities.
This decline in physical exercise increases the likelihood of falling and getting injured.
4. Diminished Strength and Flexibility
As a person grows older, muscle mass and calcium production decrease.
This leads older adults to have weak muscles and brittle bones. Hence, strength and flexibility diminish.
External Risk Factors for Falls
Environmental safety matters in preventing injuries caused by falls. Look out for these risk factors in the home and nursing facilities.
- Loose throw rugs
- Uneven surfaces
- Absence of railings
- Wet or slippery floors
- Clutter on the floor
Other Fall Risk Factors
Aside from the previously mentioned reasons for elderly falls, more conditions contribute to this increased fall risk, including:
- Foot pain and inappropriate footwear
- Previous falling incident
- Hypotension or low blood pressure
- Stroke, arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease
- Changes in the blood sugar
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
Types of Falls in the Elderly
Elderlies could easily fall when sitting, standing, walking, sleeping, or taking a bath.
For younger people, such activities are normal. However, for seniors, these could be life-threatening.
1. Falling Backwards
The elderly can fall backward even while standing. Having balance disorders could be the major reason why this happens.
A condition called backward disequilibrium has been associated with backward falls among elderlies. This is a postural disorder that distorts their postural vertical perception.
To manage such a condition, you must seek help from healthcare providers.
2. Falling Asleep on the Toilet
Health conditions or medications can cause an elderly to fall asleep anywhere at any time of the day.
They can fall asleep even on the toilet, which is dangerous as they might slip or fall!
It isn’t easy to prevent such instances. But you can consider different measures to avoid accidents.
If the elderly tend to fall asleep anywhere, you might consider accompanying them to the toilet.
To prevent falls, installing grab bars might help provide support. A raised toilet can also aid in lessening the effort exerted when sitting and standing.
3. Falling Out of Bed
If the elderly roll over their beds often, they have an increased risk of falling.
To prevent falls, you can put bed rails or foam wedges on the edge or sides of the bed.
You can also invest in a hospital bed with a built-in bed rail. You can adjust it at different angles to keep the elderly comfortable while lying down.
Statistics on Elderly Falls
Falling accidents have been one of the leading causes of severe health conditions among elderlies.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3 million older adults in emergency departments are treated for fall injuries annually.
- Hospitalization due to head injury and hip fractures from falling is also high at 800,000 yearly.
- CDC also identified that 95% of hip fractures occur due to falling. At least 300,000 seniors are hospitalized due to such accidents, usually by falling sideways.
- In 2015, the total medical costs paid by elderly patients due to fall injuries amounted to $50 billion.
Falling is also identified as a leading cause of death among older adults.
According to CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention, mortality rates from these incidents increased by 30% over the past decade.
A head injury causes 48.7% of these deaths after falling. Falling accidents are also a leading cause of traumatic brain injuries.
What to Do if an Elderly Falls and Hits Their Head
With the increased risk of falling for older adults, the likelihood of getting broken bones and hitting their heads due to falling increases as well.
Hence, you must know how to respond to such instances. This could help alleviate the possible harm to older patients.
Here are the 6 things that you should consider when an older adult hits their head:
#1 Keep Your Composure
Keeping calm and staying composed helps you think clearly. This also helps the older person to stay at ease.
With this, both of you can properly communicate. And you’ll be able to know the next steps to do.
#2 Check Their Consciousness
Knowing if the older person is conscious or responsive is VITAL. This will help you determine if the person is suffering from any injury.
If the older adult can still communicate properly, there’s a great chance of no serious injury inflicted.
In cases where the patient is unresponsive, you can do the following:
- Perform CPR if necessary (only do this if you are trained to do so)
- Call 911 or emergency services
- Stop the bleeding by applying pressure with a clean piece of clothing
#3 Figure Out the Cause
It is also important to know the cause of falling. This helps you and the doctor understand the probable reasons behind the fall.
As previously mentioned, there are a lot of factors that contribute to many falls.
Health experts can address concerns if the cause is MORE SERIOUS, such as a stroke, heart attack, or seizure.
#4 Determine Injuries or Sources of Pain
Such incidents could either be injurious falls or nonfatal falls. But you should check for possible injuries either way.
You can observe signs and symptoms of any injury, like moderate to severe pain, bruising, and bleeding.
If you see signs and symptoms of serious injury, especially in the head, neck, and spine, immediately call 911 and ask for emergency services.
WARNING: In cases like this, DO NOT attempt to move the injured person’s body.
#5 Put the Patient in a Sitting Position
If the older adult shows no signs of any fatal injury, you can help put them in a sitting position.
Do this slowly and carefully while aiding the patient. Only do this if the person is:
- Conscious and responsive
- Not showing any signs of a major or fatal injury
- Not feeling any pain in the head, neck, and spine area
#6 Monitor Closely for 24 Hours
Monitor the elderly patient even if you think they feel okay after the incident.
Observe if new symptoms arise, such as increased pain, confusion, dizziness, or memory loss. When this happens, call emergency services or 911.
Elderly Recovery After a Fall
Aftercare is ESSENTIAL, especially if the elderly patient has suffered from fall-related injuries, like hip fractures and head injuries.
Most patients would get physical therapy, especially those who suffered from a broken hip or any broken bones.
- This helps in the early mobilization of older adults and reduces the risks of subsequent falls among patients.
- Gradually doing strength and balance exercises with an expert can help them improve their walking and regain their balance.
You must also ask the doctor to explain any abnormality or changes required to the older adult.
Knowing the risk factors can help you determine falls prevention measures that you need to consider. This can aid you in creating fall prevention strategies to avoid accidents.
Other Things to Check
Doctors would often perform evaluations with the patient even if the accident involved no fatal injuries.
Here are several things that doctors do:
- Blood tests – Any abnormality in the elderly’s blood count can increase the risk of falls.
- Monitor blood pressure and pulse rate – This is usually done if the patient falls due to fainting or taking blood pressure medication.
- Physical examination – The doctor can check the gait and balance of patients and determine if they need a physical therapist to improve.
- Review medication – The doctor might consider changing the medication if the side effects affect balance.
Consequences Accompanying Fall Among Elderly
According to CDC, most falls do not result in injuries. However, 1 in 5 fall accidents leads to a broken bone and a head injury.
Head injuries are fatal, especially to those who are taking blood thinners.
Falls can also lead to a hip fracture, traumatic brain injury, and soft tissue injuries like bruising or scrapes.
Minimizing the Risk of Falling Among Senior Citizens
With the increased fall risk of seniors, falls prevention is NECESSARY.
Minimizing the risks can also minimize the probability of fall-related injuries among the elderly.
You can do several things to reduce fall risk:
- Get your eyes checked
- Consult a doctor to evaluate health risks that lead to a fall
- Perform exercises to strengthen bones and improve balance
- Reduce hazards by improving the lighting, removing unnecessary objects along the way, using non-slip mats, etc.
Older adult falls are very common.
This inflicts elderlies with serious fall-related injuries and other health complications. And in worse cases, death.Hence, it’s important to prevent falls as much as possible. The tips discussed in this article can greatly help minimize older adult falls.