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Elderly people are more prone to falls, which can result in serious consequences including disability and death. Find out more about the causes of falls and how to lower your risk
Injuries related to falls are common among older persons with approximately 28-35 percent of those 65 years and older falling each year
Falls can cause pain, disability, loss of independence and premature death. In Singapore, about one-third of older persons aged 60 and above has fallen more than once.
Studies have shown that falls are a major cause of hip fractures, especially among women. More than 20 percent of patients die in the first year after suffering from a hip fracture, while another 25 percent of older persons require a higher level of long-term care after a fracture.
Fret not, as there are plenty of things one can do to prevent falls. Let us first take a look at what are the likely causes of falls.
It has been found that most falls in older persons (69.7%) happen in the home. The majority of these falls occur in the bedroom and the living room due to clutter or hazards such as slippery floors or loose cords. Other conditions like visual problems and ill health also increase the risk of falls in older persons.
Uneven, loose and slippery surfaces
Unsecured carpets, rugs
Loose cords and wires
Poor step and stairway design
Chairs and beds that are too high or too low
Wrong prescription glasses or eyewear
Weakness, imbalance and poor coordination
Medical conditions that affect vision, muscle strength and reflexes (e.g. Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, cataracts, glaucoma)
Medications that can cause unsteadiness or affect balance, vision and alertness (e.g. sedatives, blood pressure drugs)
Lack of physical activity, poor muscle tone and strength
Falls can result in complications ranging from fractures to long term hospitalisation to lost self-esteem and confidence. The consequences of falls can be split into physical and psychological:
Fractures, especially of hip or forearm
Pain or discomfort
Health problems due to prolonged immobility
Difficulty or inability to move around independently, especially for long periods of time
Unsteady walking pattern
Loss of independence
Changes to daily routine
Financial costs of hospitalisation
Decreased quality of life
Frustration at losing independence to carry out daily activities
Fear of falling again
Distress resulting from uncertainty and anxiety in life after suffering from fall-related injury
Embarrassment from injury or use of walking aids
Loss of self-esteem due to inability to take care of oneself after falling
Loss of social contacts due to long-term hospitalisation
Falls affect lives of individuals who have fallen, their family members and friends. Therefore, steps must be taken so that falls are prevented. Where possible, factors which cause a person to fall should be reduced or removed.
Individuals who are at risk of falls can reduce the chances of falling by making some of these simple changes to their daily activities.
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 or giddiness. Always consult your doctor before starting on any medications.
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 activities that fits your interest and abilities.
Consider balance and mobility exercises that are most effective at reducing falls risk.
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.
minimise 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.
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This article was last reviewed on
Monday, January 22, 2018
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