Falls among the elderly: Know the factsSunday, August 29, 2021
FALLS are a major threat to the elderly and can reduce their ability to remain independent. One out of five falls causes a severe injury such as laceration, broken bones or a head injury. With the percentage of elderly people increasing rapidly in the region, the ability to recognise and reduce risk factors for falls will be critical to protecting the elderly.
The WHO (World Health Organization) Global Report on Falls Prevention in Older Age revealed that each year one in three persons over 65 experiences a fall. This likelihood increased with age and level of frailty. Locally, the reality is similar. A 2014 Jamaican study titled Falls Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults in Jamaica found that one in five older adults had experienced a fall during a six-month period.
After experiencing a fall, even if there was no injury, an individual will develop fear of another fall; this may result in limited daily activities. However, limiting activities results in weaker muscles, and this increases the risk of a fall.
Research has identified many risk factors that can contribute to falling. These include:
1 Lower body weakness
2 Vitamin D deficiency
3 Difficulties with walking and balance
4 Use of medicines such as tranquilisers, sedatives, or antidepressants
5 Vision problems
6 Foot pain or poor footwear.
Awareness of these risk factors will allow modifications and the implementation of safety measures to help prevent falls. Here are some home safety measures that caregivers can implement:
1 Remove loose rugs and possible trip hazards
2 Repair broken or uneven steps
3 Encourage the elderly to wear non-slip shoes and use walking aids
4 Install grab bars inside and outside bathroom tubs, showers and next to the toilets
5 Improve lighting for better visibility.
6 Encourage the practise of strength and balance exercises.
Medical professionals recommend that any older person who falls and hits their head should see a doctor right away and be assessed for a possible brain injury.
— Source: PAHO