elderly-woman-fall-in-bathroom

Falls can cause pain, disability, loss of independence and premature death. In Singapore, about one-third of older people aged 60 and above has fallen more than once.

Falls can be prevented. Let us first take a look at what are the likely causes of falls.

Causes of Falls

tangled-wires-on-floor

It has been found that most falls in older people happen in their home. The majority of these falls occur 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 people.

Environmental Factors

  • 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

  • Wrong footwear

  • Wrong eyewear

Other Causes of Falls

  • Weakness, imbalance and poor coordination

  • Impaired cognition

  • 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


Consequences of Falls

elderly-man-clutching-shoulder

Falls can result in complications ranging from fractures to long term hospitalisation. The consequences of falls can be split into physical and psychological:

Physical Consequences

  • Fractures, especially at 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

Psychological Consequences

  • Frustration at losing their 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


Lower the Risk

lower the risk of falling

Falls affect lives of individuals who have fallen, their family members and friends. 

Individuals who are at risk of falls can reduce the chances of falling by making some of these simple changes to their daily activities.

Related: 3 Easy Ways To Be An Active Senior

What You Can Do


Engage in Regular Physical Activity

  • Physical activities and keeping active can make you stronger and lower your chances of falling.

  • Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity weekly. In addition, do strength, balance and flexibility exercises (e.g. Tai Chi and Qigong) at least twice a week. 

  • Ask your doctor if you are not sure which physical activities you can do. 

  • Have a plan for regular physical activities that fit your interest and abilities.


Make Your Home Safer

To make your home safer:

  • remove all loose floor rugs or use a non-slip mat.

  • coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall so that you don't trip over them.

  • Keep floors free of clutter and maintain clear paths for walking

  • fix loose or uneven steps.

  • install grab bars and non-skid tape in the shower.

  • ensure that entrances, stairways, and rooms are well lit.




elderly-man-checking-eyes-with-optometrist

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 or giddiness. Always consult your doctor.



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References

  1. Yoshida, S. (n.d.). A Global Report on Falls Prevention: Epidemiology of Falls. [PDF]
    Retrieved November 2014 from http://www.who.int/ageing/projects/1.Epidemiology%20of%20falls%20in%20older%20age.pdf