Next week—September 18-22—is Falls Prevention Awareness Week. The issue of falls among the older community has garnered increasing attention as populations age worldwide. Falls are a significant public health concern, leading to injuries, hospitalizations, reduced quality of life, and even mortality among older adults. As individuals age, their susceptibility to falls often increases due to factors such as declining muscle strength, impaired balance, medication side effects, and chronic health conditions.
Falls among older people are more than just isolated accidents. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 646,000 individuals worldwide die each year due to falls, making falls the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths globally.
There are several strategies effective at reducing the risk of falls among older adults:
- Exercise Programs: Many people believe that reducing their level of activity will lessen their chances of falling. In most cases, this is incorrect. Physical activity plays a key role in maintaining muscle strength, balance, and flexibility. Be sure to check with your personal physician before starting a new exercise program.
- Check Your Wardrobe: Are your pants too long? Do your shoes fit properly? Are your shoes non-skid? Tripping over a too-long pantleg or turning an ankle in a loose shoe can change a life in an instant.
- Medication Management: Many medications can cause dizziness, drowsiness, or imbalance, increasing the likelihood of falls. Regular medication reviews with healthcare providers are important, not only to decrease the chance of falling, but to ensure that the best combination of medications has been prescribed for the individual’s situation.
- Regular Vision and Hearing Checks: Impaired vision and hearing can lessen an individual’s ability to be aware of obstacles or hazards in their environment.
- Home Modifications: Adapting living spaces to accommodate the changing needs of older adults is crucial. This can involve installing handrails, removing tripping hazards, improving lighting, and ensuring that floors are slip-resistant.
- Assistive Devices: Canes, walkers, grab bars, etc. can provide additional support, increasing an individual’s stability and confidence while moving around.
- Nutrition and Hydration: Adequate nutrition and hydration contribute to overall health and strength, reducing the risk of falls indirectly by maintaining muscle function and alertness.
- Education and Awareness: Raising awareness among older adults, caregivers, and communities about fall risks and prevention strategies is essential. Empowering individuals with knowledge equips them to take proactive steps in their daily lives.
Creating age-friendly communities involves designing public spaces and infrastructure that cater to the needs of older adults. Sidewalks, parks, public transportation, and buildings should be designed with accessibility, safety, and ease of use in mind. An environment that facilitates mobility and social engagement can significantly contribute to reducing falls and promoting the well-being of older individuals. Several North Shore communities have age-friendly initiatives that are reviewing these issues.
Fall prevention requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach including medical, environmental, and lifestyle factors. By promoting regular exercise, proper medication management, home modifications, and community engagement, we can significantly reduce the risk of falls among older adults and ensure they maintain their independence and quality of life.
SeniorCare, in conjunction with the Beverly Council on Aging, is offering “A Matter of Balance” an 8-week free workshop on Mondays, Oct 16-Dec 4, 2023, 10am-noon at the Beverly Senior Center, located at 90 Colon Street in Beverly. This free workshop focusses on educating and supporting older adults around falling and the fear of falling. Through group discussion, practical strategies and light exercising, older adults will reduce the fear and risk of falling, helping them to stay active and involved. For information and to register, contact Abby Considine at 978-281-1750 or Abby.Considine@seniorcareinc.org.