Foiling Falls: What Works and What Doesn’t

What can you do to help prevent your loved one from falling?

This coming Saturday (September 22) was recently named, "National Falls Prevention Awareness Day."

Falling presents a serious health risk for the elderly. Thirty-three percent of adults over age 65 fall every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For the senior population, falls top the rankings of injury-related death and are the most frequent cause of hospital trauma admission.

There are steps seniors and their caregivers can take to decrease the danger presented by falls.

A recent analysis of 159 separate studies on fall prevention in the elderly sheds some light on what existing research has to say on how to help a senior stay steady on their feet.

  • Exercise: Seniors who engaged in varied workouts (combining endurance, flexibility, balance, and strength) experienced a 15 percent decrease in their risk for falling. Tai Chi was also a beneficial exercise. The Chinese martial art was linked to a 28 decline in risk of falls in the elderly.
  • Having a doctor double-check meds: Programs aimed at weaning older adults off of certain prescriptions that may make them more prone to falling (anti-anxiety meds, sleep-inducers, and anti-depressants), appeared to cut down on their fall risk.
  • Correcting physical problems: Surgeries such as cataract correction and pacemaker implantation effectively decreased falls in seniors suffering from certain eye and heart conditions.
  • A home safety check-up: Having an occupational therapist evaluate and modify a senior's home slashed their fall rate by 19 percent.
  • Vitamin D supplements: Suggesting supplements didn't appear to have a statistically significant effect on seniors in general when it comes to fall prevention, though study authors say that those who suffer from a serious vitamin deficiency may benefit from supplementation.
  • Education alone: Educating the elderly on the dangers of falls and how to prevent them didn't help when nothing else was done to follow-up (i.e. no accompanying exercise program).

Check out the Mobility and Falls section for more information on how to help your loved one stay upright and injury-free

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