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Combating Falls

Combating Falls

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Falls are the major cause of non-fatal injury around the world. Among older persons, the risk of falling is significantly higher than younger adults and the consequences of falls can be severe. It is estimated that people above the age of 65 have the highest death rate from injuries. This article explains why older persons are more prone to falls and what you can do to reduce the risks.

Causes of falls
The main causes of falls for physically healthy older persons are environmental factors, such as tripping over furniture or slipping over floor rugs. Older and physically less stable older persons might fall due to dizziness, "passing out", and difficulty in walking. Risk factors for fall s among the elderly can be classified into either personal factors or environmental factors:

Personal reasons:

  • Deteriorated health, mobility and strength
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Impaired cognition
  • Medical conditions that affect vision, muscle strength and reflexes, e.g. Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, cataracts, glaucoma, etc
  • Medications that can cause unsteadiness and/or affect balance, vision and alertness, e.g. sedatives, blood pressure drugs
  • Lack of physical activity, poor muscle tone and strength
  • Fatigue
  • Inadequate nutrition and diet

Environmental reasons:

  • Uneven, loose and slippery surfaces
  • Unsecured carpets, rugs
  • Loose cords and wires
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Poor step and stairway design
  • Chairs and beds that are too high or too low
  • Inappropriate footwear
  • Inappropriate eyewear

1-2-3 to Preventing Falls

We can lower the chances of falling by making some changes in our daily activities.

a. Consult a doctor or a trained healthcare professional:

  • Have your vision checked regularly.
    Glasses with the wrong prescription and medical conditions like glaucoma or cataracts affect vision and increase the risk of falling.
  • When in doubt, have your doctor or pharmacist review your medicines.
    Some medications or combination of medications can cause drowsiness and increase the risk of falling.
  • Always consult your doctor before starting on any medications.

b. Engage in regular physical activity
Physical activities and keeping active can make you stronger and lower your chances of falling.

  • Ask your doctor what types of physical activity would be best for you.
  • Have a plan for regular physical activit ies that fits your interest and abilities.
  • Consider balance and mobility exercises that are most effective at reducing falls risk.

c .Make your home safer
The home is the most common place where fall-related injuries occur. To make your home safer:

  • Remove floor rugs or use a non-slip backing
  • Coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall so that you don't trip over them
  • Minimize cluttering of furniture
  • Fix loose or uneven steps
  • Install grab bars and non-skid tape in the shower
  • Ensure that entrances, stairways, and rooms are well lit

So remember:

  • With deteriorating health, vision and balance, the risk of falls among older persons increases.
  • Environmental hazards in the home, such as slippery rugs and loose wires, can increase the risk of falling.
  • Safety precautions and regular exercises significantly reduce risks of falling.

This article was originally published on the website of the Health Promotion Board. Reproduced with permission.

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