Falls are Serious and Common
One of the worst things that could happen to the elderly is falling down. Simple accidents like a slip on a wet bathroom floor, tripping over something in the house or trying to reach for something while on a step stool could lead to falls which sometimes result in injury, or worse – death.
According to a study done in 2021 published in the National Library of Medicine, 31.4% of elders in Malaysia have had at least one fall in 2020 which has resulted in injury. If you think about it, that’s at least one in 3 people. This is really alarming and should raise a bell as to why so many seniors are falling!
One of the biggest fears for older persons and their families is having a fall, because at their age, recovery can be a challenging journey and if they are suffering from osteoporosis, they are at higher risk of serious injuries resulting from the fall.
Often times, falls are caused by the weakening of the leg muscles – notice how sedentary seniors or those who don’t exercise have very thin legs with no calves? If this is your parent or grandparent, you need to see a physiotherapist to ensure they can continue walking for life or that their legs don’t buckle under them due to weakness. Retaining good balance can also prevent falls.
The bad news is that families who do not address this issue will be left with the financial burden of caring for an immobile senior. This takes up time and more cost whether caring for them at home or trying to move them around, and it is a cost for the rest of their lives. It also takes away the most valuable thing – Quality of Life for both your seniors as well as yourselves.
The good news is that this risk and weakness can be reversed with proper physiotherapy programs for seniors and it is a one-time cost to address it and maintenance along the way.
Credit: New Zealand Doctor
Injuries & problems in the Elderly as a Result of Falling
Common injuries and problems include:
- Broken bones & hairline fractures in areas such as the wrist, arm, ankle, and hip. If they are in pain or there is swelling, this is a clear sign that you need to take them to the hospital for an x-ray and professional check up by a doctor.
- Head injuries. These can be very serious especially if the person is taking medication like blood thinners. An older person who falls and injures their head should be brought to see a doctor right away even if they appear normal. Remember that you are not an expert and cannot determine if there is internal bleeding or other issues.
- Develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this further increases their chances of falls. At ReU Living, we’ve seen quite a number of elderly who have suffered a phobia of walking and had to seek counseling to overcome this fear, or had to work with our Occupational Therapist to slowly sync their mind and body to ensure they could walk confidently again.
To the last point, it’s important to be patient with the elderly and help them overcome their trauma from falling and at the same time, ensure they get sufficient exercise or physiotherapy treatments to help them strengthen their muscles and retain their balance and confidence in their own body. Physiotherapy is not just for those who are injured, it also helps with senior strengthening. At ReU Living, we use the HUR Technology & specialised machines for our senior strengthening program as a preventative measure for falls.
What Conditions Increase Your Risk of Falling?
Based on research and our team’s experience in the eldercare industry, we have identified several risk factors which include:
- Lower body weakness – this is common when the elderly is non-active – doesn’t do any exercise or has pain and stiffness in their lower limbs due to injury or inactivity and doesn’t move to prevent further pain.
- Challenges with maintaining balance and walking – dementia, Parkinson’s, inactivity, and certain illnesses can cause such problems. This needs to be looked at by an expert instead of just left alone due to their age and illness.
- Medication can also cause problems with dizziness, balance and low blood pressure. Some over-the-counter medicine can also affect balance or overall how steady you are on your feet. Many are also on multiple medication prescribed by different doctor and specialists and don’t realise that some have counter-effects to each other.
- Vision problems that affect depth-perception and distance can cause missteps which can lead to falling. Dimly lit homes can often cause problems for the elderly, along with poor eyesight.
- Foot pain or poor footwear – it is often safer to walk barefoot rather than with slippers that may not provide the right grip with certain flooring. Some even cause tripping. Socks need to be looked into and only worn in bed or with proper flooring and footwear.
- Home hazards such as broken or uneven steps, clutter or rugs/carpets. Make sure you clear this away to prevent unnecessary tripping.
- Climbing up and down stairs when there is already weakness in the legs. You can purchase a stair lift, or a less costly alternative is have them do physiotherapy to strengthen the legs, or move their bedroom downstairs.
- Trying to attempt to independently do housework that involves climbing on a ladder or chair to fix a broken household item – this is a no no!
Most fall cases are caused by a combination of risk factors above or just plain misjudgment.
What Can You Do to Prevent Falls
Falls can be prevented with enough thought and care. Here are some simple things you can do to minimize your risk of falling:
- Seek advice from your doctor – ask them to evaluate your fall risk based on your physical health, and to review your medication to see if any cause side effects including dizziness or drowsiness.
- Have your eyes checked – visit an optometrist to assess if your glasses are still the correct prescription. You could even explore having different glasses for indoor and outdoor use if you are active outdoors.
- Make your home safer
- Get rid of things that you could trip over – declutter!
- Install grab bars if you are living independently or get assistance from a nurse or caregiver, or move in to a proper assisted-living facility if you are no longer independent.
- Do not walk around the home with footwear and slippers. These are often more dangerous than being barefoot.
- Store items you use frequently in lower areas – avoid the use of ladders and step-stools at all cost!
- Use non-slip tiles, mats or stickers on surfaces that are bound to be wet such as bathtubs, showers, toilets and the kitchen. Slip-proof your home
- Ensure the areas are all brightly lit
- Do strength & balance exercises
For those who are active, continue your programs and ensure that you measure your muscle tone, strength and balance. You can do this with your geriatric doctor, your physiotherapist or in a gym that you frequent. Track your progress or digression at least annually.
For those who are not active, don’t know where to start or are starting to have problems with your leg strength and balance, we would recommend our Senior Strengthening Program. It’s a 2 week wellness staycation program inclusive of your own customised physio program, full board and a nursing and hospitality team for all your needs. So in two weeks, you can avoid being wheelchair-bound for the rest of your life.
Speak to us on our hotline at +6010-380-0938 or come and meet us in person to experience the program and explore other alternative options for care.