By National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health
Falls and fractures are not an inevitable part of growing older. Many can be prevented. Many falls result from personal or lifestyle factors that can be changed. Your doctor or other health care provider can assess your elderly parent's risk of falling and suggest ways to prevent falls.
At your next check-up, talk with your health care provider about your elderly parent's risk of falling and changes you might make. You might be referred to another health care provider who can help. Also, let your doctor know if your elderly mother or father has fallen or almost fallen. Here are some changes you might make:
Be Physically Active
Regular physical activity is a first line of defense against falls and fractures. Physical activity strengthens muscles and increases flexibility and endurance. In turn, your balance and the way you walk may change, decreasing the chances of a fall. It's important to keep muscles strong. Strengthening muscles in the lower body can improve balance. Work with your doctor or a physical therapist to plan a physical activity program that is right for your aging parent.
Have Medicines Reviewed
Find out about the possible side effects of medicines your loved one takes. Some medications might affect coordination or balance, or cause dizziness, confusion, or sleepiness. Some medications don't work well together, adding to your parent's risk of falls. Bring prescribed and over-the-counter medicines with you when you visit the doctor. Also bring any vitamins, minerals, and herbal products your parent is taking.
Have Blood Pressure Checked When Lying and Standing
Some older people have normal or increased blood pressure while seated, but their blood pressure drops too much on standing. There is no way to know unless you check. Most often, though, blood pressure is checked when you are sitting.
Your health care provider should check your elderly parent's blood pressure and pulse after he/she has been lying down for at least 5 minutes and again after he/she gets up. If it drops too much when your parent gets up, ask if any of his/her medications may be decreased or if you should make other changes. Drinking more water, getting up more slowly, pumping feet or hands before getting up, or wearing special stockings can help, too.
Get a Vision Check-up
Have your elderly parent's vision tested regularly or if you think it has changed. Even small changes in sight can make your aging mother or father less stable. Make sure your aging parent wears his/her eyeglasses so they can see their surroundings clearly. Keep them clean and check to see that the frames are straight. When your elder gets new glasses, be extra cautious while he/she is getting used to them. If your parent uses reading glasses or multi-focal lenses, take them off when they are walking.
Choose Safe Footwear
The soles of our feet have nerves that help us judge the position of our bodies. To work correctly, our feet need to be in touch with the ground and our shoes need to stay securely with the foot as we take each step. Otherwise, falls may occur. Have your elderly parent wear sensible, low-heeled shoes that fit well and support the feet. There should be no marks on their feet when they take off their shoes and socks.
Your parent's shoes should completely surround the feet. Wearing only socks or wearing floppy, backless slippers or shoes without backs can be unsafe. Also, choose shoes with non-slip soles. Smooth soles can cause your elderly parent to slip on waxed or polished floors.
National Institute on Aging (NIA), one of the 27 Institutes and Centers of the National Institute of Health (NIH) leads a broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life. In 1974, Congress granted authority to form NIA to provide leadership in aging research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs relevant to aging and older people.