Helping prevent senior falls

By Jonathan Acton - jonathan.acton@homeinstead.ie

Reducing the risk of falls and accidents is one important way to help minimise the risk of senior hospitalisation.

As people age they experience natural ageing affects, such as stiff joints, poor eyesight, and decreased muscle strength along with poor balance. Natural ageing along with chronic conditions, such as cataracts, arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, can increase their risk of falling.

Think about your senior’s environment and consider these tips:

• Remove clutter from pathways.

• Arrange furniture to make rooms easy to navigate.

• Remove or secure throw rugs.

• Encourage use of assistive devices to retrieve items from high shelves.

• Suggest use of a cane when walking on uneven surfaces.

• Encourage seniors to wear shoes with non-slip soles.

• Ask seniors to avoid walking in stocking feet on wood floors.

• Replace shoe laces that tie with elastic ones that won’t come untied and present a tripping hazard.

• Organise the house so items used most frequently are at waist level, minimising the need to bend or climb.

• Apply high-contrast coloured tape to top and bottom of stairs and thresholds.

• Make sure the home and stairways are well lit.

• Use a night light and/or leave a light on in the bathroom to reduce the risk of falls in the dark.

• Allow enough space to walk around furniture.

• Encourage seniors to use handrails.

• Suggest the senior keep one hand free when walking to allow him or her to grab a sturdy object to stop a fall.

• Minimise distractions and help the senior focus while walking.

• Allow plenty of time for activities and tasks.

One potential problem for older adults is inactivity. Lack of exercise can lead to weak legs and this increases the chances of falling. Older adults can stay independent and reduce their chances of falling if they:

• Exercise regularly. It is important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance, and that they get more challenging over time. Tai Chi programmes are especially good.

• Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medicines—both prescription and over-the-counter—to identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.

• Have their eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update their eyeglasses to maximise their vision. Consider getting a pair with single vision distance lenses for some activities such as walking outside.

• Make their homes safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding railings on both sides of stairways, and improving the lighting in their homes.

Home Instead, Marlinstown Office Park, Mullingar - 044 9385260