Teaching Seniors How To Fall: A Guide to Avoiding Trouble

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    Falls are one of the most common accidents among seniors and the leading cause of injuries. As you grow older, many factors may increase the likelihood of falls occurring — from diagnosed health conditions to medications and changes in physical abilities or gait.

    While falls cannot be avoided entirely, there are a number of tips and tricks seniors can follow for fall prevention. Understanding the importance of teaching seniors how to fall safely can prevent grave fall-related injuries and mitigate the occurrence of these falls on a regular basis.

    Why Is Falling Dangerous for Seniors?

    Falls can be extremely dangerous for seniors as they can negatively affect their quality of life due to the physical and mental consequences that may arise from these accidents. 

    The Statistics About Senior Falls

    Falls are a top cause for concern in elderly individuals as they are one of the leading causes of unintentional injury-related deaths across the world. This is most common in the above 65 age group. Around 20-30% of people in this demographic may experience bruising, fractures, head trauma, and more due to falling.

    In the US, a senior falls every second. An estimated 3 million seniors seek help at emergency rooms due to falls every year. Hip fractures are also one of the most common fall-related injuries. In fact, over 95% of hip fractures occur due to falls. This is more common among women because they usually have osteoporosis which weakens their bones.

    Due to all of these statistics, falls are a public health concern. 

    What Happens to Seniors After a Fall?

    In worst-case scenarios, some seniors may never recover after a fall. This could be because of existing medical conditions and the physical limitations among this older age group. Often, fall-related deaths are caused by head injury.

    How seniors fall has a big impact on what happens after. If you are able to break your fall, you may end up with a few bruises. However, in more severe cases, you may find yourself with a fractured hip, sprains, or head trauma. Due to additional age-related risks, even the most minor injuries may require seniors to seek medical attention.

    Medical attention can require long-term care and rehabilitation, but this may expose seniors to other risks such as infections and other diseases. A less-expected consequence of falls among the elderly is the psychological or mental turmoil these accidents can bring about.

    Falls can have adverse effects on seniors’ quality of life. Seniors may be traumatized after a fall and worried about it occurring again. Fear of falling can cause some seniors to alter their day-to-day activities, confining them in such a way that their usual routine is interrupted. 

    Seniors may also lose the ability to care for themselves, thus affecting their self-image and dignity. This may then cause a decline in their mental health and ability to live as they normally would.

    Health Conditions That Are Risk Factors for Falls 

    There are a number of health conditions that could be big risk factors for senior falls. These can make seniors more likely to lose balance, trip, and fall.

    • Poor Vision
    • Heart Disease
    • Osteoporosis 
    • Thyroid Issues
    • Vitamin D Deficiency
    • Muscle Weakness
    • Diabetes
    • Postural Hypotension

    How Can Seniors Fall Safely?

    As previously mentioned, the nature of one’s fall can affect the severity of its consequences. Here are some ways seniors can fall safely, should they find themselves in this situation:

    • Protect the Head - At all times, you should protect your head during a fall to avoid head traumas and brain bleeds. You can lower your head and tuck your chin in, turn your head sideways, or cover your head with your arms.  
    • Bend - If you are already off-balance, the best thing you can do as you fall is to bend your knees and elbows. Many people may have the reflex to stiffen, but bending can actually minimize the impact of a fall while keeping your limbs protected. 
    • Spread Out the Impact - If you are mid-fall, try to allow yourself to keep falling. When you do this, you are able to spread out the impact of your fall instead of confining the effect to one particular body part. When you land, turn sideways and curl into a ball to continue spreading out the impact. 
    • Avoid Landing On Bones - In relation to the previous tip, avoid landing on your bones. When you spread out the impact, you can increase your chances of landing on the fleshier parts of your body, like your butt. Combining all these tips, you’ll be less likely to get a fracture.

    Getting Over the Anxiety of Falling

    Although learning how to fall may be easier said than done because of all the additional risks, reading about how to overcome your fear can help restore some sense of control.

    Acknowledging the fears you have about falling is the first step towards rebuilding your confidence and taking action to make sure that you do all you can to prevent these accidents from happening.

    • Exercise Regularly - Regular exercise can help improve your strength and balance. Activities such as stretching, tai chi, or dance can address any balance issues that you may have. This can also strengthen your muscles and bones so that you become more stable.
    • Talk to Your Doctor - If you notice that your balance is off or that you have become more fearful of falls, it’s important that you speak to your doctor. Doctors will be able to pinpoint your particular risks and advise you accordingly, equipping you with practical advice.
    • Invest in a Medical Alert System - Several of today’s medical alert systems have fall detection features. Using motion sensor technology can detect when the person wearing it has abruptly lost balance. It will then alert the wearer’s caregiver if the former presses a button. This can be very helpful for those who live alone.

    Tips for Reducing the Risk of Falls at Home

    If you age in place, your family members and caretakers can do their part in making sure that your home is a safe space with minimal risks. You should feel that your home is easy to navigate and is rid of all dangers that can make your falls worse. Here are some tips for reducing the risks of falls at home:

    1. Remove All Clutter - Regularly remove all clutter you see around the house as scattered or loose items could potentially be a fall hazard. 
    2. Keep Cords Out of Sight - Tape down cords or get rid of them altogether so that seniors don’t trip over them.
    3. Add More Lights - Make the home more well-lit, especially along pathways and staircases. Put nightlights on pathways to the bathroom, in case you need to use it at night.
    4. Remove Loose Carpets and Rugs - Remove loose carpets and rugs, or put non-slip pads and anchors underneath them for more security.
    5. Install Grab Bars - Install grab bars by the toilet, in and out of your shower, and in other areas of the house where seniors may need more support.
    6. Put Commonly Used Items Within Reach - Make items used regularly within reach to give seniors easy access so that they do not overextend and strain their bodies.
    7. Check For Loose Tiles or Steps - Do an inspection of your flooring to make sure that there are no loose tiles or steps.
    8. Add Outlines to Stairs - Tracing the edges of steps with colored tape can help seniors see them better.
    9. Install Bed Rails - Bed rails can give seniors more support and stability when they get in and out of bed or when they need to change positions.
    10. Purchase a Shower Chair - A shower chair can give seniors a sense of freedom and security, knowing that they can take a bath safely.
    11. Put Non-Slip Mats and Strips In the Bathroom - Non-slip mats and strips in the bathroom can give seniors more traction on slippery surfaces.
    12. Consider Changing the Flooring - Consider changing the flooring of a senior’s home to something wooden or fully carpeted.
    13. Install a Medical Alert or Alarm - Consider installing a medical alert or alarm that a senior can press if they need help or if they get into an accident.
    14. Limit Furniture - Try to limit your furniture so that unnecessary pieces do not block the way of seniors who need to navigate around the house.
    15. Keep Pets in Their Designated Area - Pets roaming freely around the house may, unfortunately, be a hazard for seniors, so make sure they have their own designated area.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    The possibility of falling can still be frightening for many. Here are some frequently asked questions about falls:

    How do you teach an elderly person to fall?

    You can teach an elderly person to fall by telling them to bend their knees and elbows, protect their heads, fall sideways, spread out the impact to their whole body, and avoid landing on their bones but on fleshier areas instead.

    What do I do if my elderly parent keeps falling?

    If your elderly parent keeps falling, encourage them to exercise to improve their balance, fall-proof the home, or take them to the doctor who can properly pinpoint what the problem is.   

    What time do most falls occur?

    Around 20% of falls occur during the night, with the rest occurring during the day. Most falls at night happen between 9pm to 7am, when seniors have to get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. 

    What are the three types of falls?

    The three types of falls are accidental falls, anticipated physiological falls, and unanticipated physiological falls. 

    What is the most common cause of falls in the elderly?

    The most common causes of falls in the elderly are a combination of different risk factors, from lower body weakness to vision and balance problems, vitamin D deficiency, medication, osteoporosis, and the like.

    Now that you have more knowledge on the risk factors of falls, how to fall safely, and how to fall-proof your home, we hope you have restored confidence that you can live your life as you normally would. 

    For further reading, you can check out a guide to mobility equipment for seniors. Contact Senior Strong for all your elderly care needs!

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