Statistics from around the world show that
- 1 in 3 people over 65yrs fall every year
- 10% have multiple falls
- 54% of hospitalisations in people over 65 are related to falls
- 30%of people require medical attention after a fall
- 10% of falls cause serious injury
Falls and resultant fractures significantly affect the quality of life of older people. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again. Falls can result in hip fractures, other broken bones, and head injuries. And even falls without a major injury can cause those who fall, to become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities, and when a person is less active, they become weaker and this increases their chances of falling. If you have an ageing parent, grandparent, or neighbour in your life, helping them reduce their risk of falling is a great way to help them stay healthy and independent as long as possible.
The good news about falls is that most can be prevented.
The key is to know where to look. Here are some common factors that can lead to a fall:
- Balance and gait:As we age, most of us lose some coordination, flexibility, and balance— primarily through inactivity, making it easier to fall. So…keep moving!
- Vision:In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina—making contrasting edges, tripping hazards, and obstacles harder to see.
- Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, dehydration or interactions with each other that can lead to a fall.
- Environment: Most elders have lived in their homes for a long time and have never thought about simple modifications that might keep it safer as they age.
- Chronic conditions: More than 80% of older adults have at least one chronic condition like diabetes, stroke, or arthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling because they result in lost function, inactivity, depression, pain, or multiple medications.
We need to debunk the myths about elders and falls. Many people think falls are a normal part of aging. The truth is, they’re not. You have the power to reduce your risk. Exercising, managing your medications, having your vision checked, and making your living environment safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall. Some of the myths that need debunking include
- Myth 1: Falling happens to other people, not to me. Reality:Many people think, “It won’t happen to me.” But the truth is that 1 in 3 elders fall every year.
- Myth 2: Falling is something normal that happens as you get older. Reality: Falling is not a normal part of aging. Strength and balance exercises, managing your medications, having your vision checked and making your living environment safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.
- Myth 3: If I limit my activity, I won’t fall. Reality: Some people believe that the best way to prevent falls is to stay at home and limit activity. Not true. Performing physical activities will actually help you stay independent, as your strength and range of motion benefit from remaining active. Social activities are also good for your overall health.
- Myth 4: As long as I stay at home, I can avoid falling. Reality: Over half of all falls take place at home. Inspect your home for fall risks. Fix simple but serious hazards such as clutter, throw rugs, and poor lighting. Make simple home modifications, such as adding grab bars in the bathroom, a second handrail on stairs, and non-slip paint on outdoor steps.
- Myth 5: Muscle strength and flexibility can’t be regained. Reality: While we do lose muscle as we age, exercise can partially restore strength and flexibility. It’s never too late to start an exercise program. Even if you’ve been a “couch potato” your whole life, becoming active now will benefit you in many ways—including protection from falls.
- Myth 6: Taking medication doesn’t increase my risk of falling. Reality: Taking any medication may increase your risk of falling. Medications affect people in many different ways and can sometimes make you dizzy or sleepy. Be careful when starting a new medication. Talk to your pharmacist about potential side effects or interactions of your medications.
- Myth 7: I don’t need to get my vision checked every year. Reality: Vision is another key risk factor for falls. Aging is associated with some forms of vision loss that increase risk of falling and injury. People with vision problems are more than twice as likely to fall as those without visual impairment. Have your eyes checked at least once a year and update your glasses.
- Myth 8: Using a walker or a stick will make me more dependent. Reality: Walking aids are very important in helping many older adults maintain or improve their mobility. However, make sure you use these devices safely.
- Myth 9: I don’t need to talk to family members or my doctor if I’m concerned about my risk of falling. I don’t want to alarm them, and I want to keep my independence. Reality: Fall prevention is a team effort. Bring it up with your doctor, family, and anyone else who is in a position to help. They want to help you maintain your mobility and independence and also reduce your risk of falling.
- Myth 10: I don’t need to talk to my parent, spouse, or other older person if I’m concerned about their risk of falling. It will hurt their feelings, and it’s none of my business. Reality: Let them know about your concerns and offer support to help them maintain the highest degree of independence possible. There are many things you can do, including removing hazards in the home.
So keep moving! Ensure that remaining physically active is integral to your life’s goals. Improve your balance, strength and gait through exercise. And remember that no one is too frail or too old to do some exercise!