As San Francisco senior caregiving experts, we realize that even in the elderly, falls don't "just happen" and that the majority of falls happen in the home. Usually there is an underlying reason for a fall, whether due to a medical condition or even the medications a senior takes for his/her health.
What are the risk factors scientists have linked to falling in older adults?
Painful joints or weak muscles. Older individuals often suffer from arthritis, diabetes, or other conditions that can result in painful joints, weakness in the muscles, even numbness or tingling in the feet or legs. This can easily result in a fall. Seniors should work to maintain flexibility and endurance.
Postural hypotension is a condition that may result from certain medications or dehydration. It may also be linked to Parkinson's disease, diabetes, or other disorders and causes blood pressure to drop dramatically when a person gets up from a sitting or lying position.
Sensory issues. Many aging seniors' senses don't work as well as when they were young. For instance, sight may be worse or you may not have the full feeling in your legs/feet that you once had. This can result in a fall, as an older person who cannot see well or who experiences numbness may not be able to sense where he/she is stepping.
Glaucoma, cataracts, and other vision problems. Some folks who are older have problems with cataracts, glaucoma, even depth perception or peripheral vision. Even with corrective glasses (usually multi-focal in the elderly), falls are much more common. Make sure you have good lighting in your home.
Short-term confusion and dementia. Seniors don't have to have dementia to be confused on occasion. When an older loved one seems confused, whether upon waking or at any time, he/she should avoid trying to get up to walk until the confusion clears, or someone comes to help.
Medications. Certain medications come with warnings such as "may cause dizziness." The problem is, many seniors take a number of medications for health problems that in themselves may contribute to a fall - and the more medications a person takes, the greater the risk of falling. Your doctor can tell you if certain medications may be causing you to become unsteady, or if any OTC medicines you may be taking in addition may be contributing to the problem.
What should you look for at home to reduce the risk of a fall?
Since most falls do take place at home, it's important to keep the home as safe as possible. Make sure stairways and other dark areas are well-lit, and consider factors such as:
Falls in the elderly can be traumatic, leading to a broken hip, sprains, even head injuries. Be sure to make your aging loved one's home as safe as possible, and check with the doctor if you believe medications or a health concern may be contributing to falls.
Need help caring for a senior? At Care Indeed, we offer a wide array of services customized to your needs whether you need an in-home caregiver during the day, at night, for a few hours occasionally, respite care, or care to complement hospice.
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