Fall prevention in the elderly
The World Health Organisation has noted that of people over 65, 30% will fall on a yearly basis. In the over 75's, the fall percentage is even higher. Of those that fall, 20-30% will suffer major side effects, including reduced independence and mobility, and beyond that, an increased risk of premature death. The resulting injuries often take a long time to heal, depending on the severity of the fall, and the age of the person falling. In 2016, the NIH noted that the elderly population was made up of 617 million people aged 65 and older. Current projections estimate that by 2050, the population of people over 65 will be 17% or 1.6 billion. That will be around 1.6 billion people that are more susceptible to falls than any other subgroup of the population.
As a person ages, the body’s ability to heal wounds and injuries gradually slows down. This means that an initially minor injury can easily develop into a long-term, serious issue. As the body takes longer to heal, there is more time for complications to arise. These complications can range from infection to loss of muscle or movement and unfortunately can even cause a person to become bedridden. Due to this, it is extremely important to take care of our ageing loved ones to ensure fall risk, both inside and outside of the home is minimised, you can do this by making some minor changes in their home and introducing an elderly fall alarm where needed. It also helps to understand fall prevention in the elderly.
We have put together a guide to risk factors related to falling and some helpful tips to help you take care of your ageing loved ones.
Fall Risk Factors
Risk is related to the chance of an event occurring. In this case, the risk would be associated with the likelihood of falling, due to a variety of factors. Some of these factors can be minimised or completely removed to help prevent a fall, whilst others simply need to be taken into account and managed.
While preventing falls at a population level hasn’t been officially studied, current published studies identify specific risk factors for falls and subsequent injuries. Therefore, you can look at risk factors for falls by dividing them into three factors: Intrinsic, extrinsic or environmental, and exposure to risk. For the sake of this article, we will look in-depth at those three factors and then how to prevent falls in the future.
Extrinsic and Environmental Factors
Extrinsic or environmental factors are external to the person. They are factors within the surrounding environment that can add to the risk of a fall. This can include:
- Wearing the wrong footwear
- Slipping on loose rugs, carpet, slippery or wet floors
- Tripping on steps, pavements and uneven footpaths
- Poor lighting
It can be made worse if there aren't properly installed support handrails, or if a person relies on inappropriate walking aids -proper walking aids are necessary.
Because older adults lack the balance or right mechanisms for stopping a fall, they are more prone to accidents from extrinsic factors than a healthy, younger adult. This is why a personal fall alarm can be helpful for a loved one's wellbeing.
What is an intrinsic risk factor for elderly falls?
When we talk about intrinsic risk, we mean the risks related to a person. As an individual, you might be at greater risk of falling due to your age, health condition or because of a side effect of medication. There is a wide range of intrinsic factors that add to fall risk in the elderly from medication to medical conditions. Some of them may be congenital while others may be psychological. Regardless of this, automatic fall detection may offer some reassurance.
Certain medications have side effects such as dizziness, which can lead to an increased risk of falling. For instance, benzodiazepine can increase your fall risk by 44%, as well as increasing the likelihood of night falls and hip fractures. The risk of a fall is increased as well, when a person is prescribed multiple medicines, regardless of what is prescribed. Dizziness is often a side effect of medicine and it is a common reason for elderly adults to fall. Getting a falls alarm for elderly relatives is one way in which you can be alerted as soon as something happens.
In addition to this, a number of medical conditions themselves can cause increased dizziness and present a fall risk. Conditions like arthritis, diabetes, and pulmonary disease, to name a few, all can cause an increased risk of a fall. Conditions such as epilepsy or low blood pressure may also cause a person to fall as a symptom of the underlying condition such as fitting or fainting. In these cases, seizure alarms or an epilepsy alarm - any personal alarm with fall detection, is a great way of giving you and your loved one peace of mind.
While it is not a medical condition, per se, impaired mobility or gait strongly impacts instances of falls. As people age, they lose their strength. A loss of core strength will greatly impact overall balance and strength, and it will impact how easily one can slip and fall. Even difficulty getting up from a sitting position impacts one’s likelihood of a fall leading them to require a personal fall alarm. Impaired gait, which may require additional aids to walking, makes tripping and falling far more likely. Foot problems, like bunions, ulcers, or deformed nails will impact one’s gait and make the risk of falling even higher.
As person ages, vision may become impaired, making it difficult to identify possible tripping hazards. Visual impairments and the added use of bifocal lenses increase the likelihood of falls. For that reason, many doctors may recommend using single lenses whilst moving around the house, especially around stairs or tripping hazards and set the bifocals aside for reading.
Cognitive impairments in the elderly, like dementia and Alzheimer’s impact one’s chances of falling. NHS inform point to the reasons why a person with dementia may be at risk of falling. These include:
- Mobility Issues
- Muscle Weakness
- Memory Loss
- Difficulty Communicating
While most falls may not result in an injury, it is difficult to ignore the link between cognitive impairment and an increased risk of falling. It is always worth at least looking into if fall alert devices will make a difference to a person and their quality of life.
If an elderly person has fallen before, unfortunately, this means that they’re more likely to fall again, perhaps due to reasons already mentioned. This can sometimes lead to anxiety caused by the fear of falling leading. A drop in confidence like this might mean reduced mobility which increases weakness and reduces core strength. In these cases, telecare such as a personal alarm device can help a person feel safe at home which is why they are used for fall prevention in the elderly.
Exposure to Risk
The final category of people more likely to fall is those who are exposed to risk. Whether it is intentional or not, people who are more exposed to risks that could cause them to fall, will. Some people fall on walks, others fall in increased physical activity due to unsafe conditions, but as a general rule, the pros of the activity outweigh the cons. Overall, the relationship between activity and falling is multifaceted and difficult to categorise, but activity is so vital to physical and mental strength it is strongly encouraged to continue as long as the individual is fit.
Tips for Fall Prevention in the Elderly
Fall prevention in the elderly is important for their health and well-being. It is essential to take precautions to help protect your elderly loved ones from falls. We have put together a list of helpful tips that can aid you in doing this.
It is vital that your ageing parents and grandparents have a full check up on a routine basis. This is necessary so that any medical conditions can be quickly diagnosed and treated promptly. Regular visits to their GP is necessary to ensure that their body is functioning adequately. They can also check on any dizziness or hearing problems, which could further contribute to falls.
Inner ear problems could contribute to dizziness and affect the balance system, making it important to confirm and correct.Having poor vision will lead to a higher likelihood of falling, among other side effects, so it is important to maintain regular eye appointments as well.
As mentioned above, certain medications can cause side effects such as unsteadiness or drowsiness. This can lead to a trip or fall. It is for this reason that medicines should be regularly checked and discontinued if they are seen to be interfering with the body’s regular functions. They should also be discontinued if they are no longer needed; only continue medications that the doctor prescribes to you and destroy any excess medication.
As we grow older, our body starts to become stiff, resulting in decreased balance and a lack of coordination. Body strength is also reduced making it essential to incorporate adequate exercise into the daily routine. No matter the age, exercise helps to keep the body fit and flexible and promotes coordination and strength. All of these factors can significantly decrease the chance of falling.
To counter weakness due to old age, simple, basic exercise is recommended. From walking to Tai Chi, many elderly individuals have noticed an improvement in their core strength and overall balance due to exercise. Age UK has some great tips and advice on staying fit whatever your level of ability.
There are wrist worn alarms and pendant alarms for the elderly that use fall detection and can be used outside of the home. These devices combine a personal alarm and GPS tracker which means that it can be used when you are out and about, leaving you to get on with any activity with peace of mind.
This involves removing all tripping hazards, ensuring rooms and stairs have non-slip treads and lighting is adequate throughout the home. Consider adding mats in the bathroom, where floors can be slippery when wet, and guard rails near the toilet or bath to assist in standing up. Adequate lighting is extremely important in aiding proper vision and preventing falls related to unseen obstacles, so ensure that overhead lights or lamps are bright enough.
Along with your home, fall-proof your wardrobe. Consider that clothing isn’t too loose and might impede your balance or vision whilst walking. Items like long, loose, flowy dresses or skirts are easy to trip over or limit one’s vision. Ensure that shoes fit well and aren’t too loose or too tight and that laces are tied neatly. If you wear house shoes, ensure they too fit snugly or purchase a pair of fall prevention slipper socks. Along with clothing, ensure that any accessories like earrings, necklaces, eyewear chains, and more are not distracting enough to throw off balance or cause one to be distracted and trip.
Fall prevention training is important if you care for elderly people. It will have in-depth information on preventing falls in the elderly, and caring for an elderly family member who has fallen in the past.
Which is the best personal alarm for elderly people who might fall?
Improvements in technology means that you can get the best personal alarm for elderly relatives. Features such as fall detection are helping people to feel safer as they know that help is at the touch of a button when minutes matter.
An elderly emergency button gives users the ability to call for help should an accident or emergency situation occur. A SureSafe personal alarm with a fall detector will raise the alarm if the wearer cannot press the button. This means that if they take ill or are unconscious, someone will know even if they are unable to press their SOS pendant.
A GPS personal alarm can be used anywhere where there is a reliable mobile phone signal. This means that the wearer can keep doing the things that they love, knowing that help is available if they have a fall. With our mobile alarms, the wearer to be connected to a designated contact or monitoring centre at the push of a button.
The SureSafe range of telecare equipment is manufactured with the safety of your elderly loved ones in mind. Our range includes alarms for all needs and requirements; automatic fall alert devices, landline-based alarms and mobile-based alarms. Our wearable monitored personal alarm devices, with automatic fall detection included, use up to date technology to detect falls. If detected, a designated contact, or 24-hour monitoring centre, is immediately alerted and help dispatched if necessary.
Wearers can also manually raise the alarm using their elderly alert system, should they feel at risk in any way. This allows both wearers and their loved one’s peace of mind that they will be quickly looked after should a fall occur. This quick response can dramatically impact the severity of injuries sustained, often preventing prolonged complications.
they are lightweight and discreet and most types can be worn around the wrist or as a pendant.
It is our aim to ensure that every elderly person can live a safe and independent lifestyle, all you need to do is choose the right kind of personal alarm for you.