Preventing Falls, No Humpty Dumpties
Falling, Risks and Outcomes in The Elderly
- By preventing bone loss in our younger years, we cut fall risk. Osteoporosis increases the risk of fractures. The risk for women is higher than for men, a small frame and poor nutrition hurts too. That stereotype of the tiny, bent, little old lady is valid in evaluating fall risks. The mortality rate in the first year after a hip fracture is 25%-50% depending on other health factors. Here are tips on preventing bone loss.http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/manage/ptc-20207963
- Many falls (like a hip fractures) need surgery. People like my 91-year-old mother with multiple health issues are not good surgical risks. Besides broken bones, no one wants a head injury!
- For the elderly, hospital stays after falling injuries are longer and require extensive inpatient rehab after discharge.
- Often, elderly often can’t return to their earlier activity level. Many end up in nursing homes after a serious fall.
- Finally, injury complications like blood clots, bed sores, loss of muscle mass and infections like pneumonia are more common in the elderly.
How Can We Prevent Falls In The Elderly?
- Begin by wearing good shoes. For the elderly function trumps beauty in shoes. My mom likes wearing sandals in the summer. She wants to wear pretty footwear and who can blame her? But a hospital gown is a worse fashion statement than sensible shoes. Both she and my dad wear sturdy, athletic shoes year round.
- Next, get rid of fall hazards. Throw rugs, stuff blocking walkways, slippery floors, and spills all are hazards leading to falls. Keep stuff off the floor. My dad is the worst! He reads the paper, throws it on the floor. He takes his clothes and shoes off in his chair and throws everything on the floor. He piles books and magazines around his chair. At 93 years old I’ve given up trying to reform him. We pick up after him and I grit my teeth doing it.
- Use shower chairs, non-skid bath mats and handheld shower devices.
- Put up hand rails everywhere—near the toilet, tub anywhere you are going from sitting to standing and especially if you are removing or putting on clothes at the same time.
- Get a nightlight and use good daytime lighting. Poor vision contributes to falling. Get your vision checked.
- Talk to your doctor about your falls. Do you fall when you first get up? Do you fall late at night? What were you doing when you fell? If you fall once, your chances of falling again increase.
- Use your cane, walker or device recommended for you. Don’t think, “I’m just going a short distance. I don’t really need it.” You do.
- If you have to use stairs, use the handrail and keep the stairs clear of laundry, toys and anything else. If you can avoid stairs, even better.
- Finally, move, move, move. If fear of falling keeps you from exercising, you’re more likely to fall. I know it’s a paradox, nevertheless it’s true. We lose muscle mass as we age. Losing muscle mass equals losing strength. Losing strength increases your fall risk and it makes recovery from an injury more difficult too. Consider exercise classes for seniors that emphasize balance such as Tai Chi and Qi Chong. Not only are they good for balance, you look so exotic doing it. 🙂