Senior Safety: How to Reduce Falls & Choose an Alert System

fall prevention and medical alerts

Falls are a big threat to seniors’ health and well-being. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 25% of seniors fall each year. Falls impact mental and physical health and sometimes result in extreme injury. However, using some easy prevention methods, seniors can reduce their risk of falling.

This article will help elderly adults and anyone else concerned with falling to learn common strategies for fall prevention.

Fall prevention techniques are your biggest asset against the many associated risks of falling. Sometimes, though, falling is inevitable. Regardless of the steps you take to prepare physically for a fall, an alert system is a truly valuable resource. 

Gaining Perspective: Important Fall Statistics for Seniors

If you fall in your 20’s, you might bruise or feel sore. But, in most cases, you’ll be able to get back up and resume life as usual. If you fall in your 80’s, the impact will be different. Falls take a more serious toll on the body as you age. The CDC reports that: 

  • Falls cause other injuries. Approximately 20% of falls cause broken bones, head injuries and other physical damage.
  • It is impossible to know for sure how many seniors fall each year because many do not report their falls. The CDC estimates that at least 30 million seniors fall every year.
  • Falls can be fatal. 30,000 seniors die each year from fall injuries. Falls are the number one reason for accidental elderly deaths. 
  • Falls decrease seniors’ quality of life, due in large part to fear of falling again, as well as injuries sustained. Approximately 70% of seniors who have fallen are nervous about another fall[1]. Seniors may disengage with many of their daily activities to reduce the risk of falling again, ultimately putting their overall health at a severe disadvantage. 

Seniors should keep in mind that statistics do not reflect the full effect that falling has on elderly health. Some seniors do not report their falls, so those injuries, ailments, and issues go unreported. It is also difficult to gauge the long-term effects of falls on seniors’ health, especially effects related to mental health or deconditioning. These statistics might make you feel nervous, but there are many simple ways you can prevent falls and lead a healthy, active lifestyle. And, if you’re nervous about falling while out and about, a medical alert system can provide much-needed peace of mind as well as security if you do fall (or have any other type of emergency).

Why Seniors Fall

Oftentimes, senior falls are a result of multiple factors. For example, we will examine the possible causes of an elderly man falling in his living room:

·        Situational: The living room is not well-lit, so he cannot see obstacles on the floor.

·        Physical: His arthritis is acting up and his legs are weaker than usual.

·        Cognitive: He is confused about what time it is and feels disoriented. 

·        Environmental: The living room floor is covered with magazines and clutter which makes it difficult to navigate. 

When we think about senior falls, it can be difficult to pin the event on a single cause. Any one of these factors could have influenced the elderly man’s fall. For this reason, it’s hard to prevent every possible fall. That said, there are several steps seniors can take to prevent falls to the best of their abilities. 

Common Fall Prevention Techniques 

Falls can be devastating for seniors. Simple precautions will help prevent falls and allow seniors to live full, healthy lives. Fall prevention falls into three main categories:

1.     Environmental: Take the extra step to fall-proof your home. These small home improvements can reduce the risk of falling. 

·         Keep everything within an arm’s reach. Avoid using a stool or ladder to grab items off a shelf.

·         Wipe up spills as soon as possible. This small effort can prevent an avoidable fall.

·         Make your bed fall safe. Seniors fall out of bed for two main reasons: rolling out during sleep and falling while getting out of bed. Adding bed rails can prevent rolling out during sleep, but the rails can make it more difficult to get out of bed. Some seniors choose to attach pool noodles instead of bed rails. The pool noodles help prevent falls and are usually less of an obstacle than bed rails.

·         Install a good light source near the bed. Nightlights can reduce the risk of nighttime falls.

·         Reconfigure your furniture. Make distinct paths through each room. Go through your furniture and give away any unnecessary furniture. Keep only stable pieces and push as much as you can against walls to make the furniture even more stable. Purchase corner guards for furniture that has sharp corners.

·         Buy slip-proof mats for tubs and showers. Bathrooms are common fall sites because they are slippery. Showers and baths pose a fall threat, but medical alert systems are waterproof and can provide you with a sense of security while bathing. 

·         Assess your rugs. Give away any small throw rugs and try to buy slip-proof rugs to replace them.

·         Regularly empty your rooms of clutter. Decluttering reduces the risk of tripping and falling.

·         Consider these fall prevention devices: grip-strips for stairs, toilet seat risers, handlebars in the bathroom, handrails along the stairs, easy-open door stairs, highlighting tape for door jams and stairs, and shower chairs.

2.     Physical Health and Daily Routine: You can best practice fall prevention through more activity, not less. Aging can cause us to lose our muscle strength if we don’t work to support it. Create a daily practice to maintain good strength, flexibility, and balance to increase resiliency after a fall and, hopefully, prevent falls. The British Journal of Sports Medicine reports that if you do balance-related exercises for 3 or more hours per week, you can reduce your risk of falling by 39%[2]

·        Activities For Physical Health:

·         Stretching improves flexibility and balance[3]

·         Strength training increases muscle strength and improves balance. 

·         Swimming is one of the most helpful exercises for increasing balance.

·         Tai chi is a practice in mindfulness, flexibility, and balance. This exercise can decrease the risk of falls by 45%[4].

·        Daily Routine:

·         Take it slow. Try not to rush daily activities. 

·         Wear slip-proof shoes during winter. Be extra careful in icy or wet conditions. 

·         Focus on hydration. Dehydration can cause disorientation and confusion, which often results in falling. 

·         Consider using a cane. 

·         Monitor alcohol intake. 

·         Meet with a physical therapist. 

·         Use a walker.

With a combination of regular exercise and small adjustments to your daily routine, you could reduce your risk of falling and increase your overall strength. 

3.     General Health: Stay up to date with any eyeglasses or vision assistance, including visits to the eye doctor. Impaired vision is a huge contributor to senior falls. Reduce chances of a fall by tending to everyday eyeglass maintenance. Talk with your doctor about fall prevention. Some doctors use an initiative from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) called STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries). Parts of STEADI are available online and include some fall prevention tips and a fall risk assessment.

Ask your doctor to perform a fall risk assessment. Most doctors will not perform this assessment unless the patient requests it. This assessment also includes recommendations for fall prevention and your protection. A doctor will keep an eye on these conditions that increase fall risk as part of a senior fall risk assessment:

·         Blood pressure. If you have low blood pressure, you might experience lightheadedness or dizziness. Both of these feelings can lead to falls. A quick change in position can lead to a drastic drop in blood pressure, or orthostatic hypotension. Blood pressure medications can also cause dizziness.

·         Diabetes. Seniors who have diabetes and use insulin are at an increased risk for falling. This risk is due to foot nerve damage, which causes imbalance, and hypoglycemia, which causes confusion and vision problems. 

·         Medication. Side effects from the drug(s) that you take are a huge fall risk. Medications for these conditions are associated with falls: allergies, insomnia, anxiety, depression, hypertension, diabetes, and chronic pain, among others.

Medical Alert Systems Can Help

Even when you take precautions, falls can still happen. A medical alert system (also known as a personal emergency response alert, alert pendant, alert bracelet,  or button alarm) ensures that you’re connected to help if a fall should occur. Here’s how it works: you press the button, or fall detection technology senses your fall automatically, and an alert is sent to an Alert1 Command Center. A trained and certified agent assesses your emergency, sends immediate help, and stays on the line with you until help arrives. 

Choose from one of our many device options, which can keep you safe both in the home and on the go. We have several payment options to suit every budget. We will never charge you for “false alarms” or multiple button pushes. Alert1 wants to make this incredibly helpful resource accessible to every senior who wants the security and peace of mind of knowing that help is always just a button press away. 

 

 

 

 



[1] Dionyssiotis, Yannis. 2012, Sept. 28. Analyzing the problem of falls among older people. International Journal of General Medicine. Analyzing the problem of falls among older people.

[2] Sherrington, Catherine, et al. 2000. Exercise to prevent falls in older adults: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Exercise to prevent falls in older adults: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis.

[3] Santos-Longhurst, Adrienne. 2019, July 15. What Is Proprioception, and Why Is It so Important? Healthline.com. What Is Proprioception, and Why Is It so Important?

[4] Watson, Stephanie. 2012, Aug. 23. Try tai chi to improve balance, avoid falls. Harvard Health Publishing. Try tai chi to improve balance, avoid falls.