Ageing Gracefully : Education in fall prevention for older adults
Ageing Gracefully : Education in fall prevention for older adults
Falls, at home or outside, are common in Canadian seniors. They often cause serious injuries, hospital stays, and long-term health issues (1). Falls do not have to be a part of ageing. Understanding why falls happen and creating falls prevention strategies can make you safer. Fall prevention education and exercises can also help you achieve this. Preventing falls will let you age gracefully!
What is a fall?
In order to deal with a given challenge, the first thing to do is to define it well. A fall is defined as:“a sudden and unintentional change in position resulting in an individual landing at a lower level such as on an object, the floor, or the ground, with or without injury” (2). This definition may change the way you think of what it means to fall. It includes serious accidents as well as near misses.
What causes a fall?
Understanding why falls in seniors happen, is important to developing your own personal falls prevention strategy. Falls can be serious and life changing. In Canada, a fall causing an injury is the leading cause of hospital visits to seniors which increases the need for long term care (2). Half of the falls causing hospitalization happened within the seniors own home (2). It is important that you look at your own health and home to create a plan. Falls can happen because of factors happening within your body or factors happening around you. Let’s explore together how we can easily prevent them by understanding their causes.
How to prevent a fall?
Avoiding falls at home, or outdoors, can be challenging. The good news is that some of these factors can change yourself! You can reduce your own risk of falls by developing your own fall prevention checklist. But, the first step to preventing a fall is to understand its causes. Risk factors (or more simply the source of these risks) can be divided into four categories (2):
Not all factors can be modified, but they can be managed. Below is a review of the factors we can control to prevent falls.
Health and Falls Prevention:
- Illnesses – Managing chronic health conditions and acute illnesses like a common cold can reduce your risk of falls
- Medication – The amount of medication you take, and the type of medication may increase your risk of falls. Always review prescription and over the counter medications with your doctor and pharmacist.
- Fitness – decreased balance, muscle strength and endurance can increase your chances of falls. Exercise is important!
- Nutrition – Eating healthy and drinking enough water keeps your body and mind working at it’s best.
Falls Prevention and environment:
- Weather – A variety of weather can cause trips, slips, and falls. Timing your trips outside and planning safe routes can keep you on your feet.
- Home – Small changes like keeping walking paths clear, securing rugs, and proper lighting are easy fixes to hazards.
- Community – choosing accessible buildings that meet your needs or asking for help in not ideal places will make your trips out enjoyable.
Falls Prevention and behaviour:
- Choices – Taking your medication as prescribed and using assistive devices properly can make you safer.
- Footwear and Clothing – Choosing clothes that are easy to put on and fit well make daily activities easier. Sturdy shoes with good tread make walking safer.
- Previous falls – A history of falls is a sign that you are likely to falls again.
- Fear of falling – Being afraid of falling can make seniors isolated and less likely to exercise.
Falls Prevention and support:
- Social – being alone often can increase your chances of having a fall. Keep in contact with others and share your needs and feelings about safety.
- Financial – A variety of support (walking aids, programs or assistance, transportation) come at a cost. Talk to professionals in your community. There are often low cost or free options that will keep you fall free.
Remember, everyone is different. Each person has different risk factors that may cause you to fall. It is important to talk to a professional, like a Kinesiologist, who can help you develop your own personalized falls prevention strategy.
Falls prevention exercises
As mentioned above, reduced muscle strength and endurance and poor balance can make you more likely to fall. Exercise is key to living healthy, independent and safe. The type of exercise you do is important. Exercise programs that include walking, strength training, and balance are most effective to stay physically healthy and reduce falls (2). The stronger and more sturdy you feel on your feet will also make you more confident performing tasks. Make sure you speak to your doctor prior to starting any new exercise program.
Balance and coordination exercises could include yoga or tai chi. If you do not feel confident on your feet, you can start with these can be done from a chair and then gradually to standing.
Functional strength and endurance exercises like sit to stands from a chair can be progressed into a squat. This is an example of a great exercise that will keep you strong but allow you to rise independently from a toilet or a kitchen chair with no arms.
Walking programs will help to improve endurance and reduce the risk of tiring out quickly. Practicing safe walking will make chores like shopping and yard work easier. Walking programs can be done safely inside in winter weather.
Exercise is a great method of preventing a fall. Do not wait until you have a fall to start exercising, you have the control to make changes. Finding a Kinesiologist who can help you get started will develop a program appropriate for you.
For more information about exercise from Kinesiologists, read other articles under the WillKin resources section. There you will find an article “Incorporating Exercise into Your day. How Do You Do it (3) There is also a video showing “3 Exercises to do in Your Kitchen” (4).
What you need to remember about fall prevention
Think about your fall risk factors as blocks in a tower:
- Each risk that applies to you is a block that stacks on top of the next
- The taller the tower, the more likely it and you are to have a fall
- Pick out the blocks that you can change and take action! Once they are removed from your personal fall risk tower, it gets smaller and sturdier, and so do you!
Fall prevention is important for seniors to have the best quality of life. Making routine changes to your daily life can make you safer and healthier. With the help of a Kinesiologist, you can prevent falls and age gracefully.