Nine ways to prevent falls: a guide for seniors
Seniors can prevent falls through a combination of proactive safety measures, lifestyle adjustments and awareness.
By Kaelen Bray
Falls are a significant concern for seniors, as they can lead to serious injuries and a decline in overall quality of life. According to the World Health Organization, one out of every three older adults experiences a fall each year. In Canada, falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations and injury deaths among people aged 65 or older.
The good news is that many falls can be prevented through proactive measures and lifestyle changes. Here are some practical strategies to help seniors stay on their feet and maintain an active, independent lifestyle.
Stay Active with Exercise
Engaging in regular physical activity is essential for maintaining strength, balance and flexibility. Exercises like walking, swimming, tai chi, and yoga can help improve muscle tone, enhance coordination and build core strength. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise routine to ensure it’s appropriate for your individual needs and health status.
Home Safety Modifications
Adapting to the living environment to reduce fall risks is crucial. Simple modifications can make a significant difference. Some suggestions include:
- Installing grab bars in the bathroom near the toilet and shower.
- Using non-slip mats in the bathroom and kitchen.
- Removing loose rugs or securing them with double-sided tape.
- Ensuring proper lighting in all areas of the home to prevent tripping.
- Organizing cords and cables to prevent them from becoming tripping hazards.
Regular Vision and Hearing Checks
Declining vision and hearing can contribute to falls. Regular eye and hearing exams can detect issues early and help seniors maintain their sensory abilities. Updating eyeglass prescriptions and using hearing aids, if needed, can significantly improve awareness of the environment and reduce the risk of accidents.
Seniors often take multiple medications, which can sometimes interact and cause dizziness or instability. It’s important to regularly review medications with a healthcare provider to ensure they are appropriate and not causing side effects that could lead to falls. Following medication schedules diligently and understanding potential side effects is essential.
Wearing proper footwear can greatly reduce the risk of falls. Seniors should choose shoes that provide good support, have non-slip soles and fit well. Avoid high heels, open-back shoes and shoes with smooth soles as these can increase the likelihood of slipping or stumbling.
A well-balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, particularly calcium and vitamin D, helps maintain bone health and muscle strength. Adequate nutrition supports overall physical well-being and can contribute to better balance and coordination.
Dehydration can lead to dizziness and weakness, increasing the risk of falls. Seniors should aim to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day. Keep a water bottle handy and set reminders if needed.
Regular Health Check-ups
Scheduling regular check-ups with healthcare providers is crucial for overall well-being. Doctors can assess any underlying health conditions that might affect balance and recommend appropriate interventions.
Use Assistive Devices
If necessary, seniors should not hesitate to use assistive devices such as canes, walkers or wheelchairs. These tools can provide additional support and stability, reducing the risk of falls. It’s important to receive proper training on how to use these devices safely and to regularly ensure they are functioning properly.
Preventing falls among seniors requires a combination of proactive measures, lifestyle adjustments and ongoing awareness. By staying physically active, making necessary home modifications, attending regular medical check-ups and following safety guidelines, seniors can significantly reduce the risk of falls and enjoy a safe, independent and active lifestyle. Remember, it’s never too late to start implementing these strategies to ensure your well-being and maintain your quality of life.
More information about healthy aging is available on the Carefor website: carefor.ca/resources.
Kaelen Bray is director of nursing and allied health at Carefor Health & Community Services.