Senior Fall Prevention and Solutions
Every year, millions of people aged 65 and older fall. More than 37 million falls are severe enough to warrant medical attention each year. Approximately one out of five falls causes significant injury such as broken bones or a head injury. The most common cause of traumatic brain injuries is falling, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
While anyone can suffer a fall, seniors are at the greatest risk. Vision impairments, balance problems, medications, and other health issues make seniors more likely to fall than others. Seniors are also more likely to suffer fatal falls than others. In fact, adults aged 65 and older have the greatest number of fatal falls.
Senior Fall Prevention Tips
Once a person falls, the risk of falling again doubles. Fortunately, there are things that can be done to prevent falls and to minimize negative consequences if a fall does occur. According to the World Health Organization, prevention strategies should focus on education, training, exercise and creating safer environments. We’ll look at each of these things separately.
Exercises & Activities
Exercise is one of the keys to preventing falls in older adults. Adding the right exercises to your daily routine can help improve strength and balance. It can also boost blood flow to the lower extremities, which helps improve circulation. When circulation is poor, it can cause numbness, which increases the risk of a fall.
Numerous research studies have found that exercise plays a big role in fall prevention. In a 2016 meta-analysis study, it was found that exercise reduces the risk of falls in older adults by 21 percent. Working out for more than three hours per week was linked to a nearly 40 percent reduction in the number of falls among seniors.
Classes & Programs
Evidence-based fall prevention programs and classes can reduce the risk of falls significantly in seniors. Here are some of the best community research-based programs. To find a program near you, visit this page or check with your local senior center or council on aging.
- Fit & Strong – This eight-week evidence-based, award-winning physical activity program helps older adults maintain independence through improved physical activity. It teaches safe stretching and aerobics exercises.
- Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL) – This program is a balance, strength and fitness evidence-based program for adults who are 65 years and older.
- YMCA Moving for Better Balance – This is a 12-week program that uses Tai Chi to help participants improve balance, flexibility, and strength. Check with your local YMCA for more information.
Risk Assessments & Checklists
A risk assessment can help you determine if you are at risk for falls inside your home. Here is a good at-home fall risk assessment. It can help you determine situations and places that you might be at risk. Complete the checklist and then share the results with your physician. He or she can make suggestions for reducing your risk of falls.
Senior Fall Detection Solution
Sometimes falls do happen no matter how much you try to prevent them. One of the most important things after a fall is getting help quickly. The longer that a person stays on the floor after a fall, the greater the chance of serious complications.
Lying on the floor for a long time after a fall is more common than previously thought, according to researchers. It is also strongly associated with hospitalization and serious injuries. Being down for a long time increases the chance that a person will need nursing home care.
Medical complications from being immobilized on the floor include:
- Pressure sores
- Muscle damage
Medical Alert Systems
Despite the best preventive measures, falls will happen. Harvard Health recommends that seniors get a medical alert device that will allow the person to summon help in the event of a fall. Medical alert systems allow you to summon help anytime night or day — even if you can’t speak. All you have to do is press a button on the alert and a trained responder will ensure that you get help quickly.
There are a variety of medical alert systems for all needs. There are both in-home and on-the-go medical alert systems. In-home systems typically include a base station with two-way voice. They operate using either a landline or a cellular connection.
On-the-go medical alert systems can be used outside of the home. They feature GPS tracking so that you can get help anywhere. Some devices feature automatic fall detection. So, you don’t need to even press a button for help. The device automatically senses a fall and alerts responders.
If you are active, there are wearable medical alert smartwatches that also include things like fitness tracking and other useful apps.
With so many different features and options available, how do you find the right medical alert device? The key is to look at reviews of different systems. Some of the more popular systems include:
When comparing systems, look at things like:
- Features – Important features for medical alert systems include two-way talk, a waterproof button, GPS tracking, automatic fall detection.
- Equipment – Most medical alert systems come with a base station that features a two-way talk and a waterproof help button. Some systems use a smartwatch instead of a button. Other optional equipment includes emergency wall buttons, extra medical alert buttons, and a lockbox.
- Customer Service – Choose a medical alert company that has a BBB rating of A or above. Also, check the reviews for good customer service. Choosing a company with poor customer service could leave you at risk in an emergency.
- Plans – There are a variety of monitoring plans available for medical alert systems. Some plans require a contract, others are pay-as-you-go.
- Value – Value is important when choosing a medical alert device. You want to make sure that you are getting the best value for your money.
Looking at reviews and comparing features will help you find the right medical alert device for your needs.
What To Do If A Fall Occurs
If a fall does occur, the very first thing that you will want to do is summon reliable help immediately. Stay calm. If you have a medical alert necklace or bracelet along with monitoring, simply press the button for help. A trained operator will connect you with emergency responders. There is nothing worse than falling and being alone with no one around to help. One of the best things about a medical alert service is that you will be connected to responders who can quickly assess the situation and send help.
Recovery Times for Senior Falls
Some people fall and then end up in a wheelchair or a nursing home. Others can suffer pretty bad falls and have only minor issues afterward. The New York Times gives an example of a 78-year old woman who fell in her home and broke three vertebrae in her neck. She was in the hospital a week, spent a week in rehab and a year later was back to her daily 45 minute walks and twice weekly yoga classes. The recovery times for falls depends on several factors including:
- How long a person is on the floor before getting help
- The severity of the fall and resulting injury
- Level of physical fitness before the fall
- Medical and psychological conditions that the person might have
The best way to experience a quick recovery is to make sure that you can get help immediately in the event of a fall, stay active and follow-up with appropriate medical care after a fall.