How can you, as a caregiver, minimize the risk of falls for seniors?

Communicating with caregivers and nurses, I often emphasize the importance of fall prevention for the elderly. Falls are way more dangerous than you might think. 

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, over 800,000 patients are hospitalized each year as a result of a fall injury, most commonly a hip fracture or a head injury.

In addition to using an emergency alert system, you can consider these five fall prevention strategies:

  1. Inspire seniors to keep moving. It can be any gentle exercise, such as walking, water workouts, or tai chi. An active lifestyle reduces the risk of falls by improving balance, strength, flexibility, and coordination.
  2. Ask them to wear sensible shoes. Properly fitting, flat shoes with slip-resistant soles minimize the risk of falling and reduce joint pain.
  3. Remove room/home hazards, such as electrical cords, boxes, or plant stands from walkways; remove loose rugs and use non-slip mats in the bathroom.
  4. Keep the room brightly lit to avoid stumbling over different objects.
  5. Purchase assistive devices, such as non-slip treads for bare-wood steps, a toilet seat with armrests, a sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub, and more.

And remember: proper care can prolong life.

Falls are a leading cause of unintentional injury and death among older Canadians.

As the population ages, this issue is becoming more significant.

Public Health Agency of Canada shared report data earlier this year stating that the absolute number of fall-related hospitalizations rose by 47% between 2008-2009 and 2019-2020.

Falls can range from a simple slip to a serious injury. Many falls result in moderate to severe injuries, and some can even be fatal.

If you're taking care of an older adult and fall prevention is important to them, there are some things you can engage them to do to reduce the risk:

Regular exercise. Exercise can help improve strength, balance and flexibility.

Reducing stress by practising relaxation techniques. Stress can make it harder for the body to respond quickly when you trip or slip on something, which increases the risk of falling.

Eating a healthy diet low in fat and salt and high in vitamins C and E (found in fruits and vegetables).

What are the risk factors we should consider when trying to prevent injuries among seniors?

When we talk about major injuries caused by falls, the need for surgery is often the most severe outcome for non-fatal cases in our minds.

While it is true, the post-surgery period is just as essential since it will define whether seniors will be able to adapt to their old ways of living or new habits. Now, what do we do to prevent the elderly from facing those challenging outcomes?

Of course, the most optimistic scenario we should aim to achieve is helping the elderly eliminate fall risks. Safe home renovation is the first step in that journey, as we need to minimize dangerous external factors surrounding seniors in their daily life. Simultaneously, we must take care of internal factors such as body frailty caused by limited physical activity or chronic health conditions.

Last but not least, the job of caregivers is to provide additional monitoring and emergency response tools to help seniors feel safe while not being supervised 24/7.

I highly recommend reading the material below to evaluate the consequences our older relatives may experience when ignoring any of the above factors.