Preventing Falls in the Older Person
Falling is part of growing up, as they say. Unfortunately, when we are above the age of 65, falling may lead to injuries, such as fractures, which affect your normal activities.
As you grow older, your bodily functions change or deteriorate. For example,
- Sense of balance reduces
- Response time slows down
- Muscles weaken
- Vision becomes poor
Medical conditions may increase the risk of falls, such as:
- Stroke and Parkinson’s disease that cause balance and walking disorders
- Heart and lung diseases
- Joint disorders, like arthritis
- Bladder conditions
Medications can also be a risk for falls. Diuretics, sedatives or anti-hypertensive medications can predispose you to fall as you grow older.
Reducing the risk of falls at home
Generally, older people tend to fall at home. This happens especially to those who are being left alone at home or those who have walking disorders.
To reduce the risks of falls, there are some tips you can follow:
- Maintain an active lifestyle. This could include early morning Tai-chi exercises at your void decks or community centres, or doing your regular grocery shopping or housework.
- Look out for potential areas that may be dangerous.
- Be aware of fall hazards and risks, especially in the home. Following is a list of changes you can make to help reduce such risks.
- Ensure that wires and cords are out of the way.
- Arrange furniture so that you can move around easily and safely.
- Use a stool if you need to reach up to a high shelf
- Move items to a lower shelf to ensure safe handling
- Make sure that wires and cords are out of the way.
- Install grab rails on walls beside the toilet
- Use non-skid mats
- Consider shower chair and portable shower head
- Place light switches within reach of the bed
- Try to install night lights between bathroom and bedroom
- Get out of bed slowly to avoid dizziness
- Keep path free of clutter and ensure places are well-lit
- Install handrails on either or both sides of the stairs if possible
- Wear rubber-soled shoes at home to prevent slips
- Make sure walking aids are used if necessary
- Make sure regular check-up and medication are complied
- Be aware of the side-effects of the medications
- Ensure that spills are cleaned at once
Proper Hand Rail Design:
- Wall clearance = 9 cm
- Height from stair = 94 cm from edge of step
- Shape for grip = 38 mm in diameter
- Surface for adequate friction = matte varnish. Avoid chrome
- Hand rail must be securely mounted
Following these instructions does not guarantee that you will not fall again, but it helps you to be aware of things that you can change to reduce your chances of accidents happening again.
More importantly, exercises to remain physically active, to keep fit, to improve muscle strength, and to maintain good postural balance are key to preventing falls.