Water-soaked bathtubs and hidden patches of black ice may be the go-to suspects when it comes to senior falls, but recent research published in "The Lancet," tells a different story about tumbles in long-term care communities.
Scientists examined video clips of hundreds of aging adults staying in long-term care and found some interesting patterns.
Why do Seniors Fall?
The number one cause of senior stumbles? Loss of balance. 41 percent of falls occurred when a movement unexpectedly shifted a senior's center of gravity, causing them to lose their stability and topple over.
Trips and stumbles accounted for 21 percent of tumbles. While slips (i.e. in the bathtub) only caused 3 percent of senior spills.
Most falls happened when a senior was doing one of three activities: walking forward (24 percent), standing (13 percent) or sitting (12 percent).
Falling poses a significant threat to a senior's health.
Among the aging population, falls are the primary cause of hospitalization and death from an injury. About one out of every three elders takes a tumble each year.
Fall Prevention Planning
There are some steps you can take to keep your loved one steady on their feet:
- Encourage physical activity: According to the National Institutes of Health, muscle weakness and inflexibility are two key factors that can increase an elder's risk of falling. Exercise programs that focus on increasing a loved one's strength, endurance and flexibility can cut their chances of experiencing a serious stumble.
- Get their medications checked: Certain medications (or medication combinations) can make a senior more prone to feelings of dizziness or disorientation. If you feel your loved one's prescriptions are upping their odds for a fall, check-in with their doctor to see what can be done.
- Remove obstacles: Whenever possible, make sure to clear a path for your loved one by removing tripping hazards such as area rugs, low-lying furniture and loose electrical cords.
- Encourage mobility devices: Based on the results of this study, the most important addition to a senior's fall prevention plan could be the proper use of mobility assistive equipment. Transitions from sitting to standing and walking forward are made safer with the use of canes, walkers, and rollaters. Encourage an aging adult to get properly fitted for mobility assistive equipment and to accept their use as a major contributor to their overall health and wellbeing.
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