The fear of falling down is the biggest concern among senior citizens. And, they have good reason to be afraid as the statistics are alarming. More than one in three people age 65 years or older falls each year. The risk of falling—and fall-related problems—rises with age.
For older people, breaking a bone after a fall can be the start of more serious problems. It can result in a trip to the hospital, an injury, and even a permanent disability.
The consequences can be devastating. Since the fear of falling down becomes common in seniors, they will avoid activities such as walking, shopping, or taking part in social activities.
At this point, it takes a lot of patience and hard work to gently convince the senior that walking is safe and very good for their health.
Fear of Falling: Causes and Risk Factors
Many things can cause a senior citizen to fall down. For example, poor eyesight, hearing, and reflexes can all contribute to stumbling and falling. Illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, or problems with nerves, feet, or blood vessels can affect one’s balance. Medications are another contributing factor. Indeed, the side affects of some medicines can be dizziness and sleepiness. And, finally, there may be safety hazards in the home or community environment where they reside.
In addition, many seniors are not in the best of physical shape, either because of chronic illnesses or medications. Personal risk factors can include muscle weakness, shaky balance, blood pressure swings and unsafe footwear.
Fear Of Falling: Safety Tips For Seniors
The National Institute of Aging (NIA) recommends the following steps for seniors to help them avoid falls. Certainly, if your loved one is living at home, it’s imperative that you, as the caregiver, make sure that all areas of the house are safe. Or, if your loved one is living in an assisted living home or skilled nursing facility, rest assured that these measures have been implemented.
In hallways, make sure that they
- Have handrails on both sides of the stairs, and are tightly fastened.
- Hold the handrails when using the stairs, going up or down.
- Make sure there is good lighting with light switches at the top and bottom of stairs and on each end of a long hall. Remember to use the lights!
- Keep areas where you walk clear. Don’t leave books, papers, clothes, and shoes on the floor or stairs.
- Check that all carpets are fixed firmly to the floor so they won’t slip. Put no-slip strips on tile and wooden floors. You can buy these strips at the hardware store.
- Don’t use throw rugs or small area rugs.
Fear of Falling: Bathrooms
- Mount grab bars near toilets and on both the inside and outside of your tub and shower.
- Place non-skid mats, strips, or carpet on all surfaces that may get wet.
- Remember to turn on night lights.
Fear of Falling: In The Bedroom
- Put night lights and light switches close to your bed.
- Keep a flashlight by your bed in case the power is out and you need to get up.
- Keep your telephone near your bed.
In Other Living Areas
- Keep electric cords and telephone wires near walls and away from walking paths.
- Arrange furniture (especially low coffee tables) away from walkways.
- Make sure sofas and chairs are the right height for to get in and out of them easily.
- Don’t walk on newly washed floors—they are slippery.
- Keep often used items within easy reach.
- Keep emergency numbers in large print near each telephone.