Falls in the elderly – Why is it important, and what can we do about it?

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Falls in the elderly – Why is it important, and what can we do about it?

Unfortunately, many seniors fall on a daily basis, and these falls can have extremely debilitating consequences. In fact, falls are responsible for 85% of all injuries experienced by seniors and cost an estimated 3 billion dollars per year to Canadians. Falls are also responsible for 40% of admissions in long-term care and 90% of hip fractures are due to falls. In 2008 alone, 2691 deaths in the elderly were due to a fall. Half of these falls occur at home. Thankfully falls prevention can happen through education and early intervention.

The consequences of a fall

A fall can have severe consequences that can be divided into 3 categories: physical, emotional and social consequences.

  • Physical consequences:
    • The physical consequences include but are not limited to: fractures, sprains, wounds, dislocations, bruising, etc.
  • Emotional consequences:
    • Some of the emotional consequences include a fear of falling, increased anxiety, a loss of self-esteem, and depression.
  • Social consequences:
    • Many seniors experience a decline in the ability to participate in social and physical activities after a fall. They can have difficulty with performing daily activities, which can consequently lead to a deterioration of physical and psychological health.

Fall Injury

What causes a fall?

There are four main categories of factors that can cause falls in seniors.

Prevention

If you believe that you, or someone you know, might be at risk of falls, sending them to a physiotherapist can greatly reduce their risk of falls. Physiotherapists can evaluate your strength, balance and range of motion and provide you with the proper exercises to improve on the limitations. By increasing strength and balance through exercise, the number of falls can decrease by 22%. Physiotherapists can also assess whether a walker or cane might be a good option to help decrease the risk of falls.

Physiotherapists can also evaluate the environmental and behavioral factors that increase your risk of falls and provide solutions to address these factors.

Fall on carpet

Falls Prevention Tips

Bathroom

  • Place a non-slip mat inside and outside the bath or shower
  • Install grab-bars on the walls by the bath and the toilet
  • Take a shower with a bath chair
  • Install an elevated toilet seat
  • Always leave a nightlight on in the bathroom

Bedroom

  • Have a bed height of approximately 50 to 55cm
  • A firm mattress
  • A grab-bar on the side of the bed to help get in and out of bed
  • A nightlight in the room
  • A chair in the room to help with getting dressed
  • A flashlight and telephone near the bed

Living Room

  • Remove unsecured rugs
  • Get all the electrical cords under control
  • Clean up the clutter
  • Have enough light in the space
  • Raise the height of the seat to make easier to get up and down

The best way to avoid the consequences of a fall is to decrease the likelihood of experience one. This is as simple as minimizing the environmental risk factors, getting stronger and improving balance or obtaining a walker to use for general mobility. Bellefleur Physiotherapy has over 20 years experience working with seniors and assisting in falls prevention. Whether you want to get stronger, minimize the hazards within your home or find out additional information about the use of a walker, we are there to support and assist you every step of the way.

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