Physical and Mental Conditions that Increase Seniors’ Risk of Falling

Physical and Mental Conditions that Increase Seniors’ Risk of Falling

As you age in place it is important to understand what types of physical and mental conditions can increase your risk of falling. When you have this information, you can determine which fall prevention strategies to use to keep yourself safe.

One fall prevention strategy that can help you no matter what the cause of falling is, is an Alert1 medical alert device for seniors. This assistive technology provides you with instant access to a certified emergency response agent who is available to you 24/7/365. Rather than fumbling with a phone and hoping that your emergency contact answers, this emergency response solution can help you ensure that you can get help wherever and whenever you may need it.

Physical Conditions

There are many different physical conditions that can increase your risk of falling. While you may not be able to fully get rid of these conditions, you can find fall prevention strategies for seniors to decrease your risk of falling.

1. Hip Pain and Injuries

Your hip helps support your weight and controls movement in the upper part of your leg. If your hip can’t support your weight or has trouble moving, it can lead to fall. Hip injuries are also commonly caused by a fall. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.” (1) If you have a hip injury, walking with a cane or walker can help you steady yourself. You can also use a brace to help support your weight.

2. Knee Pain and Injuries

Your knee helps you sit, stand, lift, walk, run, and jump. It has many parts including tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bones that when injured can hinder your ability to perform the actions mentioned previously.

Knee injuries also significantly increase your chance of falling. A study done by the Clinics in Orthopedic Surgery analyzed increased fall risk for those who were “scheduled for total knee replacement due to severe knee osteoarthritis (grade 3 or 4) and had knee pain lasting at least one year or more.” The results concluded that “the frequency of falls was 63.2% for the past year.” (2) Canes, walkers, and braces can help you avoid falls when you have a knee injury.

3. Foot Pain and Injuries

Your feet provide balance and stability when walking, running, and jumping. If you experience pain in your foot, it may cause you to recoil. This can knock you off balance and lead to a fall. Some common foot injuries that can increase seniors fall-risk include:

  • Pinched Nerves
  • Stress Fractures
  • Heal Spurs
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Bunions
  • Sesamoiditis
  • Achilles Tendinitis
  • Ankle Sprains

If you experience pain or any other problems with your feet, see a podiatrist for treatments. You can also help avoid fall risks by taking good care of your feet. Make sure you wear good socks and shoes, massage your feet, use moisturizing lotion, and trim your toenails regularly.

4. Head Injuries

Head injuries can lead to mental conditions that significantly increase seniors’ risk of falling. Some common symptoms of head injuries include:

  • Bumps, bruises, or swelling
  • Headaches
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Trouble balancing

If you notice any of these symptoms, get checked out by your doctor. While these are physical symptoms, they could signal other issues within your brain that can increase your risk of falling.

5. Surgeries

Surgeries are like injuries and can affect your strength and stability. It is important to be careful after a surgery as falling can make the issue worse. After a surgery, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to heal before participating in rigorous activity. Be sure to follow any orders your doctor gives you as well.

6. Poor Vision

Your eyes play a large role in helping you navigate your world. They help you observe obstacles in your path, how level the terrain is, and how far you need to step. If your vision is blurry, it can be more difficult to see the area where you are stepping. This increases your chance of falling. There are multiple common eye diseases that affect people every day:

  • Cataracts: Affects 20 million Americans
  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Affects 2.07 million Americans
  • Diabetic Retinopathy: Affects 7.6 million Americans
  • Glaucoma: Affects 3 million Americans (3)

If you have any of these eye diseases, talk to your eye doctor about treatments. Be sure to wear you glasses as well and ensure that your prescription is up to date.

7. Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can come with old age, damage to the inner ear, buildup of earwax, ear infections and ruptured eardrums. When you can’t hear well, you body may try to compensate by devoting more energy to your other senses and less to balance. With less attention on balance, you are more susceptible to falling. Help prevent senior falls by getting a hearing aid and practicing more caution in your environment.

An Alert1 mobile fall detection alarm button for seniors is also a useful tool to have if you fall. If you can’t get up on your own, an emergency alarm button can instantly connect you to an emergency response agent whenever and wherever you need it. Rather than typing in multiple numbers on a cell phone, all you must do is press a single button. Once you connect to the 24/7 Command Center you can talk to the emergency response agent through the 2-way speaker within your device. You can tell them who you want them to contact. The agent can find you using the built-in GPS and get help to you as soon as possible. They will also stay on the line with you until help arrives. 

8. Muscle and Bone Weakness

If you experience weakness, your muscles will have trouble holding you upright and lead to a fall. Weakness can occur for various reasons including old age, muscle degeneration, low blood pressure, dehydration, side effects of medication, fatigue, and more. As you age, it is important to keep your muscles strong with fall prevention exercises and a good diet. You may need to focus on nutrition, giving your body the nutrients it requires to function properly such as protein, calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, and iron (always discuss with your doctor).

9. Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy involves damaged nerves. When nerves are damaged, they have trouble feeling the things you touch. When this happens in your feet, it can make walking very difficult and can lead to falls. This is a common problem for diabetics. If you have peripheral neuropathy, it is important to see a doctor for treatments and pain medication. It is also helpful to slow down and take your time when moving around your environment.

If you are concerned about falling due to peripheral neuropathy, a medical alert necklace with fall detection may help give you some peace of mind.  When the fall detection sensor within the device registers a fall, it will automatically contact Alert1’s 24/7 Command Center. Then you can talk to a certified emergency response agent without ever having to press a button. This is especially useful if you are injured during the fall or if peripheral neuropathy hinders your ability to press a button. You can talk to the agent through the 2-way speaker on mobile devices or the base for in-home systems to let them know what kind of help you need. Then they can contact whoever you need for help.

Mental Conditions that Increase Fall Risk

1. Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Alzheimer’s and dementia are mental conditions that impair your cognitive abilities. They can cause confusion and frustration. They can affect your gait, balance, memory, and judgement. All these effects can lead to falls. It is important to keep your mind healthy as you age to avoid Alzheimer’s and Dementia. If your loved one has one of these conditions, try to make their environment a safer place to be with home fall prevention interventions. You may also want to consider hiring a professional caregiver that can give them the attention they require.

A mobile fall alert button can also help you ensure their safety. When the fall detection sensor registers a fall, it will automatically contact Alert1’s 24/7 Command Center for help. The GPS tracker can help an emergency response agent locate your loved one if their Alzheimer’s or dementia has caused them to wander away from their home. If your loved one seems confused, the emergency response agent will analyze the situation, follow protocols, and help determine the best course of action to keep your loved one safe.

2. Depression

Many studies have linked depression to the risk of falling; however, it is not yet understood why. According to the US National Library of Medicine, “Although the mechanisms by which depression increases fall risk are unknown, we speculate that specific consequences of depression, such as impaired concentration, inactivity, or nonadherence to physical therapy, are potential targets for intervention.” (4)

Although we do not fully understand how depression is connected to fall risk, it is still important to help ensure that your loved one is happy and well cared for. Some ways to help them avoid depression include socialization, fun outings, self-care activities, and promoting a sense of purpose.

3. Anxiety

A study done by Oxford Academic found that “elevated levels of anxiety were associated with a 53% increased likelihood of falls.” (5) Like depression, the link between falls and anxiety are not completely understood, yet it is important to take measures to prevent anxiety from causing a fall. You can reduce anxiety by practicing relaxation techniques, exercising regularly, socializing, eating well, sleeping well, and avoiding caffeine.

If you have a fear of falling, you may also find comfort in having a senior life-saving alert system. When you have one, you will know that you can instantly be connected with an emergency response agent who can help if you fall or experience a medical emergency. They will be there to assist you no matter what time of day it is. They will ask you questions about your situation and what kind of help you require. Then they will work to get that help to you and stay on the line until help has arrived.

4. Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease can cause symptoms that lead to fall risk such as tremors, postural changes, slowness, impaired balance, and a shuffling gait. This is because Parkinson’s Disease can lead to lack of dopamine in the brain which can impair muscle functions. Using home fall prevention interventions can help keep you safe around your home. This can include task such as repairing floors, installing grab bars, installing extra lighting, and ensuring that your stairs have sturdy railings.

5. Stroke

According to BMC Geriatrics, “Falls are common after strokes, with stroke survivors having an estimated 14% risk of falling in the first month.” (6) Strokes can cause symptoms such as brain damage, weakness, pain, fatigue, and trouble balancing. All these symptoms can increase seniors’ risk of falling. Exercise and home fall prevention interventions can help you avoid a fall after a stroke. Remove any tripping hazards from your home and make sure your home is well lit.

6. Epilepsy

Seizures can cause weakness, loss of consciousness, and confusion which can lead to a fall. The cause of epilepsy is unknown and therefore, seizures cannot be prevented. You can, however, make your home a safer place by removing hazards around your home. You can also purchase a wireless fall detection device for seniors. If you experience a seizure and can’t press a button, the fall detection sensor can register the fall and automatically contact Alert1’s 24/7 Command Center for you. A certified emergency response agent on the other end will assess the situation and follow protocols registered with your device to get you the help you need.

7. Impairment of Executive and Cognitive Functions

There are a variety of sources that can cause impairment of your executive and cognitive functions including mental diseases, medications, alcohol, and head injuries. Executive abilities are connected to motor skills and your ability to navigate your world while cognitive abilities help you make decisions and pay attention. When these abilities are impaired, it can lead to a fall. Talk to your doctor about ways to manage your mental diseases and head injuries. Learn the side effects of your medications and use fall prevention strategies to keep yourself safe.

Get an Alert1 Medical Alert Device for the Elderly to Keep You Safe

Whether you experience a fall or a medical emergency, a medical alert pendant for seniors can help provide you with an instant and easy way to get the assistance you need. You can choose from an in-home emergency alert system or an on-the-go medical alert system for the elderly. No matter what your emergency is, you can be put in contact with someone who can help you at the touch of a button or automatically with an Alert1 fall detection device for seniors. There are a variety of options to suit your needs and help keep you safe.




1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff. n.d. Home and Recreational Safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Important Facts About Falls.

2  Tsonga, Theano et al. Dec. 2015. CiOS Clinics in Orthopedic Surgery. US National Library of Medicine. Analyzing the History of Falls in Patients with Severe Knee Osteoarthritis.

3 The Vision Council staff. 2015. 2015 Low Vision Report. The Vision Council. Vision Loss in America: Aging and Low Vision.

4  Byers, Dr. Amy L et al. Oct. 2008. HHS Public Access Author Manuscripts. US National Library of Medicine. Depression and Risk for Adverse Falls in Older Home Health Care Patients.

5  Hallford, David John et al. Jan. 2016. The Journals of Gerontology Series B. Oxford Academic. The Association Between Anxiety and Falls: A Meta-Analysis.

6 Wei, Wycliffe et al. Dec. 2019. BMC Geriatrics. BMC. Post-stroke Patients with Moderate Function Have the Greatest Risk of Falls: a National Cohort Study.