Tripping on a rug or slipping on a wet floor can have catastrophic results, particularly for seniors. Among individuals 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and are also the leading cause of non-fatal injuries, threatening independence, mobility, and safety. More than one in four people 65 and older falls each year.
“Fear of falling becomes more common as people age and may even cause some seniors to avoid activities such as walking, shopping, or taking part in social activities. This can lead to physical decline, social isolation, feelings of helplessness, and depression,” says Jane Quijano, PT, Outpatient Rehabilitation Services Director at Christian Health Care Center (CHCC). “To help prevent falls, both our inpatient and outpatient short-term rehab programs place significant emphasis on increasing strength, flexibility, and balance to help improve stability and walking.”
In addition to weak muscles, medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, spinal stenosis, sciatica, heart disease, foot ailments, and eye and ear disorders, can affect balance. Medications which may cause drowsiness and poorly fitting footwear and/or clothing also impede balance. Environmental issues factor into the equation, as well. Wet or uneven floors, poor lighting, unstable furniture, throw rugs, steps, and pets can be catalysts for a fall.
“Fall-prevention awareness, education, programs, and strategies can help reduce falls, while promoting safety and independence for seniors,” says Elisabeth Micich Otero, MSN, RN-BC, QCP, Quality Manager and Clinical Educator for Christian Health Care Center’s (CHCC) senior-life and short-term rehab programs, services, and residences. “At CHCC, for instance, our “Call. Don’t fall. Ask for help!” campus-wide initiative aims to reduce falls by providing assistance when necessary, communicating fall-risk information from shift-to-shift, increasing observation of individuals taking medications which can cause drowsiness, noting changes in patients’ condition, and educating patients and families about falls prevention.”
CHCC’s Rehabilitation Services offer the following guidelines to help reduce falls:
- Remove throw rugs, or buy throw rugs with non-skid backings.
- Fix loose or uneven stairs and carpeting.
- Place electrical cords next to walls or behind furniture.
- Keep objects off stairs and the floor.
- Light hallways and stairways.
- Install handrails on both sides of stairs.
- Never use a chair as a step stool.
- Use non-slip mats or self-stick strips in tubs and showers.
- Install grab bars inside a tub/shower stall and next to a toilet.
- Use automatic night lights.
- Wear enclosed shoes with sturdy ankle support.
- Wear clothes which fit appropriately and are easy to put on/take off.
- Exercise regularly to improve balance and coordination.
- Slowly rise after sitting or lying down.
- Keep emergency numbers in large print near phones.
- Consider wearing a medical-alert device.