How can we prevent seniors from falling?

November 20, 2019

November is Fall Prevention Month in Canada, and it’s important to be aware of ways to reduce fall risks, particularly among seniors.

According to the Canadian Government, falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations in older adults across the country. For many older individuals, the fear of falling as they go about their daily business is ever-present -- they worry about a loss of independence, as well as physical injuries such as fractures and concussions. 

The fear of falling can also have a negative effect on mental health as it can cause people to isolate themselves both physically and socially, leading to depression and loss of mobility. For British Columbians over the age of 65, one in three will fall once a year, resulting in a higher risk of a hospital visit. 

What are the main risk factors for falling?

 
There are many different risk factors among seniors, and often a combination of these contributes to seniors falling: 
  • A sedentary lifestyle. 
  • Illnesses such as heart disease, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
  • Lack of social connection, living alone, or having limited interactions with others.
  • Limited access to healthcare, suitable housing, and other social supports.
  • Taking multiple medications (more than three) may increase your risk of falling.
  • Lack of alertness from poor nutrition and dehydration.
  • Poor outdoor infrastructure, such as uneven paving, bad lighting, or a lack of a pathway.
  • Bad weather conditions.
  • Poor eyesight can reduce awareness of environmental risks, such as curbs and steps.

Reducing the risk of a fall

 
While falls are a real concern, there are many ways to reduce the risk:
  • Talk to your doctor. You and your doctor can discuss the specific risk factors that concern you, such as your home set-up, activity level, and medication routine. They may refer you to an occupational or physical therapist, who can help you create unique prevention strategies, based on your ability.
  • Increase muscle strength, mobility, and balance through physical activity is important. Activities such as walking, tai chi, and water workouts can improve coordination and mental wellbeing. Local recreation centres offer a number of exercise classes for seniors.
  • Get social. Meet friends and family, join a local community group, check out some interesting library classes, meet a friend for regular coffee dates. 
  • Have your home assessed, so that you can you see where problem areas are, such as a lack of bedside lamp, or the need for an assistive hand rail on your stairs or bathtub. Are there loose floorboards, or obstacles obstructing your path to the kitchen? Tackling these issues will make you more secure, and feel more secure, in your home.

Further information 

 
 
BC’s physicians care about your health, and are committed to the well-being of the province’s seniors. If you have any queries or suggestions for future posts, please email communications@doctorsofbc.ca.