elderly-woman-fall-in-bathroom

Injuries related to falls are common among older persons with approximately 28-35 percent of those 65 years and older falling each year[1]

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.

Causes of Falls

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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.

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 prescription glasses or 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

  • Tiredness

Consequences of Falls

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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:

Physical Consequences

  • 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

Psychological Consequences

  • 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

Lower the Risk

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.

What You Can Do

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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 before starting on any medications.

Engage in Regular Physical Activity

  • 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.

chair-non-slip-mat-and-grab-rail-in-shower

Make Your Home Safer

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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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