Mar 17, 2024

Falls Are Deadly Serious for Seniors: How to Spot Fall Risk Factors and Prevent Them

Elderly man fallen on his side

We lost yet another beloved musician in 2016. Leonard Cohen, the poet, novelist and songwriter passed away in his sleep on Nov. 7 at the age of 82. Although the musical legend was battling cancer for many months, Leonard Cohen’s death came shortly after a fall in the middle of the night, according to a statement by his manager Robert B. Cory.

It’s not just Cohen who’s suffered from a slip and fall. These accidents cause so many problems for senior citizens.

The Truth about Seniors and Falls

Leonard Cohen’s death following his fall puts into perspective just how dangerous falls can be for people as they age. When thinking about getting older, most people worry about the common health conditions associated with advanced age, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Few people consider the severity of falls.

And yet, one out of four older people experiences a fall, and 2.8 million seniors are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Worse still, those admitted to the hospital after a fall have a one-year mortality rate of 33 percent, according to a study on the long-term outcomes of falls among the elderly.

A simple fall, which children and adults are so resilient to, can be truly debilitating to older adults due to the fragility of their bones. This is especially true of those suffering from osteoporosis. If the injuries following a fall are severe enough, they can lead to a host of more severe issues in the long term due to complications and immobility, including deep vein thrombosis and pressure ulcers.

Not all falls happen in a senior’s home. Older adults can also be seriously injured outside of the home due to slip and falls caused by dangerous conditions on a property, such as spilled milk that a grocery store failed to mop up, or snow and ice on the sidewalk that a homeowner neglected to shovel. If you or someone you love were hurt in a slip and fall accident caused by the carelessness of a property owner, contact us today for a free case review.

Look Out For These Fall Risks Factors

It’s true that older adults have a higher risk of falling in general, but some seniors are much more likely to fall than others due to a variety of risk factors. Some risk factors, as identified by the CDC, include:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty balancing
  • Use of sedative and antidepressant medications
  • Problems with vision
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Previous falls in the past

Homes that haven’t been cleared of trip hazards are also a risk to seniors. Loose rugs, uneven stair steps, and a lack of handrails are often an accident waiting to happen for older adults with failing balance and vision.

Any combination of these risk factors can make a senior much more susceptible of tripping over an object or falling down.

How to Prevent Falls

While the risks and severity of falls only increase as person gets older, there are steps you can take to keep yourself or an older loved one in your life safe from falls.

A trip to the doctor is a sound first step. A healthcare provider can identify if you or your family member is at risk of falling, as well as review prescriptions to see if any of the medications can cause disorientation or sleepiness, according to the CDC.

Be sure to also visit the optometrist, recommends the National Council on Aging, as poor vision caused by an older eyeglasses prescription can also increase fall risks. Bifocals may pose a risk as well for seniors as well, as they may create double vision when going down the stairs, so speak to the optometrist to find a solution that will help your loved one to see well and stay safe.

A home safety assessment is another must, advises the NCOA. A simple walk-through of the home can reveal safety risks that can trouble a senior, such as poor lighting around the home, a lack of rails around stairs, and the absence of grab bars in the tub and near the toilet.

Lastly, fear of falling should not hold you or your senior loved one back from walking around the neighborhood, visiting friends, gardening, and other gentle exercises. In fact, by keeping your legs strong and maintaining your balance, you reduce your likelihood of falling down, according to the CDC.

Tai chi, an ancient Chinese form of martial arts that incorporates slow, controlled movements, is just one form of exercise that can help seniors to strengthen their balance and feel more confident in their movements. Some studies have shown tai chi to reduce the risk of falls among seniors by up to 45 percent, according to an article by Harvard Health Publications.

An Issue That Impacts Us All

Leonard Cohen’s death shows that even the most legendary and revered among us can be seriously harmed by something as simple as a fall. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If someone you love is at risk of a fall, don’t wait to discuss ways to keep them safe from harm. When families come together to protect their dearly loved seniors, the likelihood of serious and fatal slip and falls can be greatly reduced.