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FALLS PREVENTION

Falling is a very serious health problem for seniors. Falling should not be considered an inevitable consequence of aging. The consequences are serious and there are simple solutions you can apply to prevent them.

Did you know?

  • 62% of injury-related hospitalizations for seniors are the result of falls.
  • Almost half of seniors who fall experience an injury.
  • Falls cause more than 90% of all hip fractures in seniors and 20% die within a year of the fracture.

Why do seniors fall?

Usually, falls have more than one cause. For example, someone who falls on a slippery floor may have weak leg muscles and/or be experiencing dizziness as a side effect of medication. This handout reviews some of the most common causes of falls and solutions to prevent them.

Inactivity

Inactivity can lead to gait and balance disorders and loss of mobility. Regular physical activity and exercise will increase muscle strength, improve coordination and help to prevent falls.

Solutions:

  • Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.
  • Stay active to prevent falls. Find out about exercise/activity programs for seniors in your area (e.g. Gardening, Tai Chi, Walking group, etc.).
  • Exercises can improve balance, mobility and strength. A health care professional can help you choose the appropriate exercise program for your specific needs.

Medication

Seniors are more at risk of falls if they take 4 or more medications. A medication that helps you to sleep or calms your nerves (sedatives) also increases the risk of falls.

Solutions:

  • Take medication correctly as indicated.
  • Review your medication with your doctor every 6 months.
  • Talk to your doctor about any side-effects that you experience.
  • Return all expired medication to your pharmacist.
  • Shop at only one pharmacy for your medication.
  • If you take medication to calm nerves or to help you sleep, talk to your doctor about alternatives such as soft music, reading or relaxation exercises.
  • Keep a list of all your medications.

Activities of daily living

Being safe and careful during our everyday tasks is crucial to avoid falling. Falls often occur while multi-tasking or thinking about something else. Falls can be greatly reduced if we are safe in our everyday activities.

Solutions

  • Better safe than sorry! Many falls result from risky behaviors such as climbing, reaching, standing on unsteady chairs or bending. Asking for help can prevent a serious injury following a fall.
  • Never be in a hurry while performing tasks, especially when carrying objects.
  • Do one thing at a time, be alert and attentive.
  • Try using a cart to carry objects.
  • Stand up slowly after you are lying down.

Walking

Walking constitutes a large portion of our days. Walking is a great way to exercise, especially for seniors. Walking aids such as canes or walkers can promote confidence, mobility and independence.

Solutions

  • Ask a health professional if a walking aid would help you be safer.
  • Ask your health professional how to properly adjust your walking aid. Proper adjustment is crucial to be safe with it.
  • Ask your health professional how to safely use the walking aid. Misuse of a cane or a walker, for example, can increase fall risk instead of
  • preventing an injury.

In your home

Most falls that occur in older people involve hazards in and around the house. Simple solutions are possible and devices such as grab bars and hand rails can really help prevent falls.

Solutions

Prevent hip fractures

Have stronger bones

If your medication allows it, eat calcium rich foods such as milk products, almonds, baked beans, salmon (with bones), dark green veggies, rhubarb.

Ask your doctor about Vitamin D and Calcium supplements.

Fear of falling

Fear of falling has been reported as the most common fear of older adults. Fear can lead to a decline in the quality of life and can increase the risk of falls through inactivity, decline in strength, balance and self-confidence.

Studies have shown that low-resistance exercises and weight-shifting activities are effective to reduce fear of falling. Education (sessions and documents) on identifying and reducing risk factors for falls are also effective to reduce fear of falling.

Adapted from “A Guide to Preventing Falls”, City of Ottawa

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