Falls are a common hazard for the ageing population, with one in three over-65s experiencing a fall every year. As a result, many older adults may worry about their wellbeing. Fortunately, being aware of the most common causes of falls can help you to avoid them, improving quality of life.
The Impact of Falling
Experiencing a fall can be a frightening thing, not least because of the impact it can have on your wellbeing. As well as leaving you less confident when moving around, it can cause or exacerbate health complications. For example, over 90% of hip fractures are caused by falls.
Sometimes, the severity of a fall-related injury depends on how quickly help is received. If you are worried about a fall in the home, a personal alarm offers easy access to reassurance and support.
Most Common Causes of Falls
There are several reasons why a person may have a fall, though it is never guaranteed. A healthy over-65 could experience a fall whereas someone with multiple health conditions may not. Therefore, it is also prudent to be cautious. Understanding the potential causes is the best way of preventing falls at home and elsewhere.
Regardless of the other potential causes we will outline below, rushing to the door or an overflowing saucepan increases your risk of a fall. When you rush, you are paying less attention to where you are stepping, which increases the likelihood of encountering other hazards. Take your time when moving around, whether at home or in a public setting.
For many over-65s, feeling weaker is a natural part of growing older. You may become less active, resulting in the loss of muscle mass and bone strength. This can contribute to a loss of balance or coordination. All these physical changes are common causes of falls. You may get tired more easily as you move around, becoming unsteady on your feet.
It is important to recognise that it is okay to ask for help. Using a cane or walking frame is not a sign of weakness; it is a tool to help you maintain your independence.
Everyone, regardless of age, has been caught out by an obstacle before. Be it a low step or trailing cable, obstacles in our paths greatly increase your risk of falling. It could be something as unassuming as the edge of a rug, but if your foot catches it wrong you may trip over. Furthermore, poor lighting can increase the likelihood of not seeing these obstacles.
To avoid these common causes of falls, you should ensure your home is well-lit. Keep walkways clear and tidy, ensuring no cables are left across the floor. You may also want to consider taping the edges of rugs down to reduce tripping hazards. Home adaptations such as ramps and handrails could be considered to further reduce your risk of falling.
Many over-65s are prescribed at least one form of prescription medication. In fact, one in ten people aged 65 or over takes at least eight forms of medication every week. Unfortunately, many medications come with side effects, and the more medications a person takes the more side effects they are likely to experience. These side effects can become common causes of falls. Sedatives, antidepressants, opioids, and antipsychotics are the main contributors to this problem. This is because they can cause drowsiness and dizziness. It is also important to remember than over-the-counter medications can also cause side effects.
If you are worried that the medications you are taking are increasing your risk of a fall, you should speak with your doctor. They may be able to adjust your prescription to reduce the risk. However, you should not stop taking medication without consulting a professional, as this could lead to other complications.
Amongst over-75s, one in five people are living with sight loss. Amongst a population who are already at increased risk of falling, this makes impaired vision one of the most common causes of falls in the elderly. Good eyesight is important for identifying potential hazards, such as changes in ground level or slippery surfaces. This is a cause of falls that is most dangerous when obstacles are encountered, as you are less likely to notice them.
It is recommended that people should get their eyes test every two years. Over-70s, however, are advised to get tested more regularly. You should ensure you are wearing your glasses if you need them. If you have more advanced sight loss, you may also wish to consider supportive equipment such as a cane.
Recovery from Surgery
Undergoing surgery is a taxing experience for anyone. It leaves you tired and uncomfortable, and you may be less mobile than you were before. For older adults, recovery can be a slow process and, in some cases, you may not achieve the same levels of fitness you had before. Trying to return to your routines too quickly could increase your risk of falling, which may undo your recovery.
The best way to prevent falls after surgery is to take your time getting back to normal. Ease yourself back into daily living, building up your strength little by little.
Chronic Medical Conditions
The likelihood of being diagnosed with a chronic medical condition increases in later life. Unfortunately, many chronic conditions can contribute to common causes of falls. For example, diagnoses such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease can all affect balance and strength. When your physical wellbeing is compromised, you become more vulnerable to falling, and may also struggle to respond to hazards effectively.
If you are living with a chronic health condition, you should be mindful of your limitations when moving around the house. Take advantage of wellbeing aids where possible, as these will support your independence. You might also want to consider a personal alarm in case of falls.
We’re afraid it has to be said: sometimes falls are caused by stubbornness. None of us want to admit that we can’t do the things we used to take for granted. However, it is a fact of life that sometimes everyday tasks become more than we can handle on our own. We might refuse help or put off taking breaks. Unfortunately, this extra exertion, couple with other risks, can increase your likelihood of experiencing a fall.
Ageing means accepting that habits need to change. Adjust your lifestyle to accommodate your limitations. It is better to make small sacrifices than experience a fall that affects your independence more severely.
Winter Fall Prevention
In colder months, the risk of falls can be increased by icy conditions. Cold weather may also intensify symptoms of chronic illnesses, increasing vulnerability. Therefore, it is important to take additional steps in winter to address common causes of falls.
The main consideration should be to avoid icy conditions where possible. In many cases, you will be better off remaining in the warmth of your own home. However, if you do need to leave your home, be mindful of the conditions outside. Salt your doorstep to make it safer, and choose whichever routes appear safest. In some cases, you may be better off walking on grass rather than paths.
Appropriate footwear is also something you will need to consider. Choose shoes or boots with good grip. When walking, you may be better off taking small steps rather than walking normally. Finally, when possible, avoid carrying items with you. Carrying something in your hands can impact your centre of balance, and if you do stumble it’s better to have your hands free so you can catch yourself.
Peace of Mind from Carelink24
With falls posing such a risk to older adults, it’s important to be prepared in case one does happen. A personal alarm from Carelink24 offers reassurance in your home, with help always a button press away. Simply activate your alarm and our 24/7 Monitoring Centre will arrange support on your behalf.
To find out more about our personal alarm service, read our useful guide. For additional information, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our friendly customer service team on 0800 0076 247. Order your Carelink24 alarm today.