Did you know that falls in the elderly are the leading cause of disability stemming from unintentional injuries? Approximately 80% of disability stemming from accidents excluding traffic mishaps were from older adults aged 50 or over falling.
Not only do the elderly have an increased risk of falling due to deterioration of their physical health such as being more frail or having weaker bones, their cognitive facilities are not as sharp as they used to be too. They tend to be more forgetful, and their balance is simply not as good as it once was. Their eyesight could be weaker too. Thus, it is extremely important that we understand the exact causes as to why the elderly fall.
There are many reasons why the elderly are so prone to falling:
1) Deficits in physical ability
Since many adults stop exercising as they grow old, and adding on the fact that as they age they tend to grow weaker, this lack of physical activity leads to reduced muscle strength, decreased bone density, reduced flexibility and a loss of balance.
2) Poor vision
When vision is impaired, it is significantly more difficult to look out for falling hazards that can cause an elderly to trip. Even if someone is incredibly fit, poor eyesight can still cause him to fall and sustain injuries. Refusing to receive treatment for declining vision such as wearing prescription glasses or low vision equipment can result in a fall too.
Elderly should look out for medications that cause side effects such as drowsiness or dizziness. Low blood pressure can cause a temporary loss of senses as well, and all these side effects can lead to a fall. Even worse are sedatives, antidepressants, antipsychotics, opioids and certain medications for the heart. Over 40% of seniors take more than five drugs a week. If one consumes a lot of medications regularly, unintended side effects can occur as well when these drugs interact with each other. That is why it is vital for them to let their treating physician or physicians know what medications they are taking.
4) Chronic Diseases
Health conditions such as Osteoporosis, Arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease severely weaken grip strength, cognitive function and balancing ability. All of this leads to increased risks of falling, and if their reflexes are affected, can minimise their ability to respond and recover from a fall. If there is nerve damage in the feet and thus an elderly loses his ability to feel in his feet, it can make it difficult for him to look out for potential falling hazards.
5) Surgical Procedures
A hip replacement or any surgical procedure that was undergone usually requires an extremely long recovery time, and during this recovery time, the elderly are more vulnerable to falling as they might be in pain or are unable to move about freely.
6) Environmental Hazards
Factors such as poor lighting, wet floors, loose carpet and random junk lying around can lead to an elderly tripping as well. It is very important to ensure that these factors are dealt with so that an elderly person will not fall.
7) Behavioural Hazards
If an elderly person is extremely physically active, the likelihood of him falling is increased. What is seemingly a normal activity for a young adult can be an extremely physically strenuous task for an elderly person, and can lead to him falling while he is tired. Attempting to use stairs without the help of another can be a recipe for disaster as well. The elderly will have to learn that it is necessary to change their daily routines because they are ageing to necessarily mitigate fall risks.
It is worth noting that falls don’t only happen due to the factors above. A fall can psychologically traumatise an elderly person, and since they are so prone to it, we must take the necessary measures to meaningfully decrease the risk of them falling.