Falls are one of the most common causes of trips to the emergency room for seniors. Some result in minor bruising, while others can result in major health consequences such as broken hips, or worse. Once you’ve addressed the fall risks in the home, you may want to take a look at other potential causes for falls.
Medication: Some medications can increase fall risks due to side effects such as dizziness or confusion. Additionally, people who take more than four prescription drugs have a greater fall risk than people who don’t. Prescription drugs can also have serious interactions with over-the-counter medication or herbal supplements. To reduce the risk, it is best to have your parent’s prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy and always check with the pharmacist and doctor about possible interactions or side effects that may increase their fall risk.
Physical Limitations: Balance problems or dizziness can result from a number of ailments, including neurological changes, arthritis, a drop in blood pressure or inner-ear problems. Any of these health concerns can increase their fall risk. In addition to specific illnesses, certain physical conditions can also contribute to fall risks. Problems such as muscle weakness, reduced flexibility, sensory problems that reduce feeling in the feet or vision problems can also make your parent more prone to falls.
Unexpected Fall Risks: Medication and physical challenges are obvious reasons for increased falls, however, there are some surprising causes that you may want to consider. If your parent is generally healthy and not taking medications that increase their fall risk, there may be other causes contributing to their falls such as dehydration, urinary incontinence, reduced Vitamin D production or sleep problems.
If your parent is experiencing an increase in falls, or any of these conditions, they should visit their doctor to find solutions or ways to adapt to the limitations. Sometimes, the solution can be as simple as switching a medication or taking a balance or fall reduction class. There are also ways to reduce fall risks, after you’ve already made their home fall safe.
• Wear shoes with nonskid soles (not house slippers)
• Be sure the home is well lit so that they can see things they may trip over
• Discourage them from climbing on stools and stepladders
• Don’t wax floors at all, or use a non-skid wax
• Encourage them to get regular exercise, especially walking
• Encourage them to do exercises to strengthen the muscles they use for walking and lifting, or to take a balance class at their local senior center
• Have their eyes checked every year for vision changes, cataracts, glaucoma and other eye problems
• Have their hearing checked every two years, or anytime you or others think that they can’t hear well
• Visit the doctor if they have foot pain or corns, or if they can’t trim their toenails well
• Visit the doctor right away if they feel dizzy, weak or unsteady on their feet, if they feel confused, or if they fall
• Let their doctor know if a medicine is making them feel dizzy or making them lose their balance
• If their doctor wants them to use a cane or a walker, make sure they learn how to use it properly — and then actually use it all the time
Have you found helpful tools to reduce falls?