Skip to main content
Publish date:

Preventing Falls in Older Adults

Author:

Kari Lane is a PhD prepared registered nurse. Her practice background is in gerontology encompassing all topics surrounding gerontology.

Everyone Falls When They Get Older, Don't They?

Falls Occur in 30% of People Living in Their Community

A fall is an event where a person unexpectedly lands on the ground. Usually this happens in an area of your home, where you are comfortable. Thirty percent of people over the age of 65 years have at least one fall a year. Of those falls nearly 20% have an injury associated with the fall. Researchers understand that many factors that cause falls have been found, these factors typically also occur more frequently in those over 65 years of age. For example having chronic conditions, vertigo (dizziness), medications especially heart medications, foot pain or deformity, hearing loss, strokes, and neurodegenerative disorders. One in five falls causes a serious injury and falls are the number one reason older adults are admitted to the hospital. Falls occur in both genders, in every culture/race, and every socioeconomic group.

Preventing Falls

Can we prevent falls, sure we can. Sometimes this means doing an activity at home and sometimes this means going to physical or occupational therapy for some intensive treatment. The number one strategy for preventing falls is moving your body or staying strong. Many of the exercises mentioned in the medical literature are included in the table below. Ask your doctor about starting one of these exercise programs today!

Do remember that any exercise program must be done at your level. If you are just starting you might need to sit in a chair while you begin. Then you can move to a more active position as you gain strength.

Examples of Types of Exercise to Prevent Falls

ExerciseDescription

Gait-training

Strengthen gait (walking) or provide techniques to adapt to an altered gait due to other conditions.

Balance-training

Goal is to strengthen balance and reduce fear of falling. Multiple ways to accomplish.

Functional-training

Strengthen and improve ability to perform activities of daily living, toileting, cooking, dressing self, etc.

Strength-training

Use weights and muscle strengthening exercises to improve a person's overall strength.

Tai Chi

a Chinese martial art and system of calisthenics, consisting of sequences of very slow controlled movements.

Qigong

a Chinese system of physical exercises and breathing control related to tai chi.

Dance

Moving rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of steps.

Walking

Move at a regular pace by lifting and setting down each foot in turn, never having both feet off the ground at once.

Boxing

The sport or practice of fighting with the fists. In this case an older adult practices with a weighted bag and rhythmically moves hands and feet.

Stationary bike

An exercise bike that does not move but is stationary.

Tai Chi Outdoors

Other Helpful Things to Do to Prevent Falls

  • Taking vitamin D doesn't prevent falls, but it does strength the bones helping to keep your bones from breaking in the event of a fall.
  • Some surgeries can help with preventing falls, such as a pacemaker to help your heart rate stay in the right range or having cataracts removed so you can see better.
  • Managing incontinence is important because if you are in a hurry to get to the bathroom in time, you are more likely to fall. Many things can be done from core muscle training to bladder retraining, to medication or surgery.
  • Manage your diet and fluids. Did you know that if you haven't eaten lately you can get light-headed and possibly faint. Being dehydrated (too little fluid) can also cause you to faint.
  • Change your environment, remove throw rugs, add hand rails, commodes, or shower seats.
  • Use cane, walkers, or other walking aids. Use aids to communicate with others, glasses, or hearing aids.
  • Consider a personal alarm.
  • Stay socially engaged, sing, meet with friends, go to worship services, in general go see and visit with other people. The more you move the lower your fall risk is.
  • Manage orthostatic hypotension, or low blood pressure when you change position. Rise from lying to sitting slowly and from sitting to standing slowly. Sleep with the head of the bed raised about 20-30 degrees, wear elastic stockings.
  • Ask your doctor to check your medications for those that might cause falls and see if another medication might do the same thing without causing falls. Have your bone density level checked to see what your bone fracture risk level is.

Read More From Youmemindbody

Staying Healthy

Photo by t4hlil from Pexels

Photo by t4hlil from Pexels

References

O’Connor, J.J., Phillips, L.J., Folarinde, B., Alexander, G.L. & Rantz, M. (2017). Assessment of fall characteristics from depth sensor videos. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 43(7), 13-19. doi:10.3928/00989134-20170614-05.

Bromfield, S.G., Ngameni, C-A., Colantonio, L.D., Bowling, B., Shimbo, D., Reynolds, K., Safford, M.M., Banach, M., Toth, P.P., & Muntner, P. (2017). Blood pressure, antihypertensive polypharmacy, frailty, and risk for serious fall injuries among older adults treated with hypertension. Hypertension, 70(2), 259-266. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.116.09390.

Brodie, M.A., Coppens, M.J., Ejupi, A., Gschwind, Y.J., Annegarn, J., Schoene, D., Wieching, R., Lord, S.R., & Delbaere, K. (2017). Comparison between clinical gait and daily-life gait assessments of fall risk in older people. Geriatric Gerontology International, 17, 2274-2282. doi: 10.1111/ggi.12979

Fahlstrom, G., Kamwendo, K., Forsberg, J., & Bodin, L. (2017). Fall prevention by nursing assistants among community-living elderly people. A randomized controlled trial. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences. 32, 575-585. doi: 10.1111/scs.12481

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Kari Lane

Related Articles