Slips and falls happen at all ages, but they’re more serious for seniors. Why? Bone strength weakens, and weaker muscles allow for less control during a fall. As you age, it’s important to take the proper steps to prevent falls from happening.
Fall prevention for seniors requires action.
1. Speak to Your Doctor
Seniors fall prevention starts with a doctor. There are a lot of variables that can lead to falling more often. The goal is to:
- Discuss weaknesses
- Express concerns of falling
You may feel weaker, or you might fall on occasion. It’s never fun to fall, and if you’ve fallen a few times, your doctor needs to know. There can be a lot of variables that can cause you to fall:
- Medications: A list of medications should be given to the doctor. Medications can cause you to fall if they have side effects. If a medication is causing your problems, a switch may resolve your issues.
- Weaknesses: Mobility issues are a common reason for falling. Weak muscles may need to be strengthened, and this would resolve most falls.
- Health Concerns: If you have health issues that cause you to lose control of your muscles or if you have dizzy spells and fall, this needs to be diagnosed and discussed with a physician.
Your doctor may advise you to use a walker or cane to help prevent falls, or you may be better suited for physical therapy, which will help you strengthen weak muscles.
2. Stay Active and Exercise
Seniors that sit at home all day need to stay active. Sitting on the couch daily will lead to muscle loss. You want to stay as active as possible, and a few activities you can start doing today to stay active are:
- Walk around the neighborhood or park
- Walk around the mall to get out and socialize
- Join senior groups aimed at staying active
- Ride a bicycle
- Play a sport you enjoy
It doesn’t take much to stay active, but one thing that helps is to have a hobby. Even a small hobby, such as gardening, helps to get people out of the house.
If you like a more intense routine, you’ll want to start exercising. There are plenty of guides for seniors who want to build muscle.
A few points to keep in mind are:
- Exercise 3 – 4 times a week at minimum
- Start slow and focus on form and safety
- Add weight over time to build muscle and put the muscles under more tension
- Remain consistent with your workouts
You don’t need to go crazy with your exercises. Building muscle takes time, so try focusing on week muscles first. The muscles that are weak and leading to your falls need to be trained to grow stronger.
Even if you need to start with no weight, it’s all about moving and engaging your muscles in the process.
There’s no rulebook that says you need to weight train. You can choose to join:
- A yoga class for seniors
- A fitness class
Anything that engages the muscles will lead to fall prevention for seniors.
3. Remove Hazards and Lighten Up Your Space
If you have hazards around your home, it’s time to correct these issues. The common hazards in a home are:
- Electrical cords and debris in walkways
- Coffee tables and furniture that can trip a person
- Loose floorboards or carpeting
- Slippery bathtubs or floors
Place mats on slipper floors, move furniture around, make necessary repairs and move electrical cords as needed. If a leak leaves water on a tile floor, have the leak repaired.
Spills need to be cleaned up promptly, too, to reduce slick areas that lead to falls.
Light sensors can help a person illuminate dark rooms or spaces where falls are common. A nightlight in the bedroom or hallway can also help reduce the risks of falling. Flashlights can be used, too, to illuminate dark areas and prevent accidental trips and falls.
4. Add or Use Assistive Devices
Assistive devices can prevent a fall from occurring. There are many assistive devices that can lead to enhanced mobility and additional safety. A few of the mobility devices that can help you walk are:
But these are mobility devices – there are numerous other devices that can be placed around the home to add further stability and reduce falling risks. These devices include:
- Sturdy handrails for steps. Handrails on both sides of a stairway offer optimal safety.
- Raised toilets with armrests can help prevent strains and falls when trying to get off a toilet.
- Shower grab bars can help you get in and out of a tub with ease, and the bar helps add to stability.
- Shower seats can be placed in the shower to allow you to sit and shower while eliminating the risks of falling.
- Mats placed on the floor can add traction and reduce unnecessary slips and falls.
An occupational or physical therapist can visit your home to help assess potential dangers and options to reduce the risk of falling. Even a small change can lead to a much safer environment for you that prevents unnecessary slips and falls.
5. Wear Proper Shoes and Clothing
Improperly sized shoes lead to falls. If you’ve been buying the same size shoe for years, go to a shoe store and ask for help measuring your foot size. You would be surprised by how many people wear shoes that are too long for their feet.
Shoes that are too big can lead to the shoe catching while going up a step, or kicking the floor with your toe.
Pants that are too long can lead to unnecessary trips, too.
Properly sized clothes and shoes are a must to reduce falls.
Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.