Get a ‘Leg Up’ on Falls Prevention
By Nicole Amico Kane, MSW, LICSW, CMC
Photo Credit: National Council on Aging
To those of us who work with older adults, it comes as no surprise that falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among adults 65 and older.1 Each year, more than one in four adults 65 and older will fall.
As Aging Life Care Professionals®, our role is to help clients manage their health, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and improve their quality of life. Our work often includes efforts to reduce falls.
Why is falls prevention so important? A fall is often life-changing. Falls, with or without injury, impact quality of life. Unfortunately, it can be the beginning of a loss of independence, increasing frailty and take a toll on an individual’s sense of self-worth.
Falls are the leading cause of the emergency room visits and nonfatal trauma-related hospitalizations for older adults, as well as long-term nursing home admissions. Fear of falling can also cause older adults to limit their mobility, activities and social engagements.
Don’t let this happen to you or an older adult in your life. It only takes a few easy lifestyle adjustments to reduce your risk of falling.
What can families and older adults do to prevent falls?
Falls are not a normal part of aging. Falls are often preventable. You can lower your risk of falling with these effective approaches:
- Talk with your healthcare provider
- Be open and honest if you have had a fall, are worried about falling or have experienced some unsteadiness.
- Have your provider or pharmacist review all medications, including current, expired, and over-the-counter.
- Get an annual eye exam.
- Exercise to improve balance and increase strength
- Lack of exercise contributes to weakness and imbalance. Exercises that improve balance and strengthen your core and legs will lower your chances of falling.
- Exercise also enhances mood, improves appetite, and can help with weight.
- Hydration and nutrition
- Make sure you are drinking plenty of water or other hydrating liquids.
- Be careful about of how much alcohol you consume.
- Eating a healthy diet also contributes to falls prevention.
- Make your home safer – inside and out
- Have a professional, such as a physical therapist or an Aging Life Care Professional, conduct a Home Assessment.
- Reduce tripping hazards and remove clutter.
- Add grab bars and railings on stairways and in bathrooms.
- Proper lighting is essential.
- Exterior pathways should be illuminated and clear. Repair exterior stairways and walkways that are cracked, uneven or broken.
- Shoes should be sturdy, comfortable, and fit well.
- If you wear slippers, soft-soled slippers should be exchanged with hard-soled slippers.
- Family and Friends
- Family and friends can help make safety improvements in your home as well as their own homes, making visits safer.
- Home modifications and safety improvements are not just supportive of older adults, they benefit all ages.
Who can help?
Start with your primary care provider for regular and ongoing healthcare assessments, monitoring, and referrals to other health professionals as necessary. For those who are more homebound and have had a fall or are at risk for falls, your physician can order Home Health services (Medicare covered) to provide in-home physical therapy and other services.
Aging Life Care Professionals are experienced, knowledgeable providers of home assessments, and can also connect you to appropriate community resources, services, and supports.
Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS) are remodelers, general contractors, designers, architects, and health care consultants that can assist with home modifications.
Exercise programs are offered at most senior centers, your local parks and recreation departments, and through local Y. Some evidence-based exercise programs for older adults include:
- Silver Sneakers (this is a covered benefit in some insurance plans).
- Other programs that promote senior fitness (this will take you to the National Council on Aging website).
Falls prevention requires a multi-prong approach. By following the suggestions above, you can be confident that you are taking practical steps to stay healthy, minimize fall risk factors, and maximize your personal safety and independence.
Nicole Amico Kane, MSW, LICSW, CMC, is the care management supervisor at Aging Wisdom, an Aging Life Care practice based in Seattle, WA. Nicole is a licensed clinical social worker and a certified care manager.
This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Falls and Fall Injuries Among Adults Aged ?65 Years — United States, 2014.