Research shows that one in three people over the age of 70 will have at least one fall every year. The risk of falling increases with age and is greater for women than for men.
Falls can lead to psychological problems and loss of confidence in the elderly due to fear of falling again. Two-thirds of those who experience a fall will fall again within 6 months.
Causes of falls These are many and varied. There are 5 key risk factors among older adults.
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become more absorbent and spongy, less resistant to stress, and more prone to fractures. It is caused by hormonal changes, calcium and vitamin D deficiency, and a decrease in physical activity. Osteoporosis is the main cause of fractures in older adults, especially women.
Lack of physical exercise. Failure to exercise regularly results in poor tone, decreased strength, and loss of bone mass and flexibility.
Impaired vision. Age-related vision diseases (cataracts and glaucoma) can increase the risk of falling.
Medications. Sedatives, anti-depressants, and anti-psychotic drugs can contribute to falls by reducing mental alertness, impairing balance and movement, and causing systolic blood pressure to drop when standing.
Environmental hazards. At least one-third of all falls in the elderly involve environmental hazards in the home. The most common hazard for falls is tripping over objects on the floor. Other factors include poor lighting, especially near steps or stairs, loose rugs, and a lack of grab rails.
Ways to minimise the risk of falls
Reduce the number of things you can trip on around the home
Make sure your home is well lit
Eliminate the need to use stairs
Wear correct foot wear
Install grab rails and place non-slip mats in the bathroom
Exercise to improve balance and strength
Use walking aids when necessary
Have your eyesight checked regularly
Review the medications you take which may affect balance
Remember: Many of the risk factors for falls are preventable. See your GP regularly, to keep health problems and medication under control.
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