In the newest issue of Prime Time Monthly, Eugene Sun, MD, President of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico, talks about the importance of fall prevention, particularly for the elderly. People of all ages can fall but the risk of falls for seniors can have especially serious consequences. A bone fracture is the most common result of a fall and it can be life threatening.
Elders have a 30-40% change of falling. Nursing home residents have an even greater chance: 50%. About half of all senior falls result in injuries. Although most of the time the injuries are small bruises or scrapes, much more serious injuries may result: fractures of the hip, arm or pelvis, or head injuries. A further complication is that half of the seniors who fall cannot get up without help. This can greatly increase the rate of complications.
What causes falls? As the body ages, decreases in balance, vision and strength may all play a role. Medications may cause dizziness. Medical conditions may result in muscle weakness, and environmental factors such as ice or snow may cause slips and falls. One of the most common reasons for falls is the easiest to prevent. Throw rugs are one of the biggest factors in falls in the home along with curled rug edges and slippery floors. Getting rid of those throw rugs, or replacing them with rugs with “invisible edges” (beveled to prevent tripping) will improve safety greatly. Other tripping hazards to watch out for are electrical cords and papers on the floor. Small pets also can be moving hazards, especially when they move faster than their owners.
The bathroom can be a dangerous place, not only because of slippery floors and toe-tripping rugs but because of falls getting in and out of the bathtub or shower. One of the most important services caregivers at Companion Care provide is assistance and supervision for safe showering.
What are some other ways to prevent falls?
- Take showers when there can be someone in the house with you. A family member or caregiver can help assure safety and provide assistance if needed.
- Daily exercise will improve your strength and balance.
- Use a walker or cane to support balance and prevent falls.
- Talk to your physician about changing medication that causes dizziness.
Did I mention, GET RID OF THOSE THROW RUGS!