Although most elderly falls do not cause injury, the results of a fall can be serious. If you break a bone this can lead to long-term disability. Broken bones do not always heal completely as you get older and a serious injury could mean that you would no longer be able to live without support. This is why, if you are aged 65 or older and have had a fall, it is important to see your doctor to find out if anything needs to be done to prevent you from falling again.
What causes Elderly Falls in older people?
People of all ages have falls. In many cases they are caused by a minor accident and the person comes to no harm. Older people who have falls, however, are likely to have more serious injuries and to fall over again.
There are many reasons why falls happen in older people, such as:
- Hazards in the home.
- Ill-fitting footwear.
- Muscle weakness: this can be due to lack of exercise, a stroke or glandular problems (for example, thyroid or adrenal disorders, steroid medicines).
- Problems with walking and/or balance.
- Arthritis: painful joints can make you less nimble and want to move around less. Lack of exercise can lead to muscle wasting and weakness.
- Dizzy spells: this can be light-headedness, a feeling that the ground is moving or a feeling that you or the surroundings are spinning.
- Confusion: this can be due to medicines, brain problems such as dementia (see below) or general illnesses such as infections.
- Postural hypotension: this means a sudden drop in blood pressure when you stand up. It usually happens within the first few weeks of starting blood pressure tablets. Occasionally it can be due to a lack of fluid in the body (dehydration) or to a condition affecting the nerve supply to blood vessels (autonomic neuropathy).
- Problems with vision: for example, clouding of the lens of the eye (cataract) and visual field defects, where part of the field of vision appears to be missing. Breakdown of the cells lining the back of the eye is known as age-related macular degeneration. It is a common cause of poor vision in older people. Sometimes an outdated prescription for glasses or bifocal lenses may increase fall risk. Older people at risk of falling may be better with two different pairs of glasses.
Check your home for hazards
Have a look around your home to see whether there is anything that could have caused your fall or would be likely to make you fall in the future. Things that need to be considered include:
- Loose rugs or mats (especially on a slippery floor).
- Electrical leads (trailing across the floor).
- Wet surfaces (especially in the bathroom).
- Poor lighting.
- Furniture which has been poorly placed.
- Objects scattered on the floor – books, papers, shoes.
- Stairs – loose carpets, broken handrails.
- Storage – frequently-used items placed on high shelves, which can only be reached by standing on a chair or stool.
- Making sure that shoes and slippers are comfortable and fit properly.
Take lots of exercise
Keep active and exercise as much as you can. This strengthens muscles, keeps joints supple and works the systems in your body which control balance and movement. A physiotherapist may be able to suggest an activity programme but you should take the lead in deciding what sort of exercise you are most comfortable with. For example, some people enjoy attending an exercise class whilst others prefer to take up activities such as dancing, swimming or t’ai chi. Activities which develop muscle strength and balance are particularly helpful.
Get in touch for any advice.