Falls are considered a major public health problem in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) data, an estimated 646,000 individuals die from falls each year, making it the second leading cause of injury deaths globally.
Different factors contribute to a person’s fall risk, with age one of the key risk factors for falls. Accordingly, older adults aged 65 and above suffer the majority number of fatal falls, with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing one in four older Americans suffers from a fall each year.
Age-related changes in a person’s body, including physical, sensory, and cognitive changes, can contribute to a higher chance of a fall. People become less active in their later years, with their physical activity engagements also decreasing. Due to this, the muscle strength, bone mass, balance and coordination, and flexibility of a person decline, increasing their chances of experiencing a fall. Consequently, a decrease in the sensory and cognitive capabilities of a person can affect their ability to respond to or recover from hazardous situations like slipping.
The progression of physiological changes in adults is not the only reason they become less active and engage less in physical activities. Several older adults become afraid of falling after experiencing one, even if they were uninjured. This fear affects them psychologically, making them anxious about everyday activities. They resort to cut down on their activities to ease their worries, making them idle and inactive, which leads to negative changes in their bodies and increase their chances of falling again.
The cause of numerous falls has been linked to environmental hazards. Clutters around the home, including electrical or extension cords, can trip a person, resulting in an accidental fall. Other environmental factors, such as poor lighting, slippery floors, throw rugs, can also affect a person, specifically, a senior’s safety. The lack of safety equipment for seniors, who want to navigate their homes independently, may also cause fall accidents.
Some falls have been said to be caused by a person’s underlying health condition. Elder adults suffering from impaired vision or those at risk of vision impairment often have chronic illnesses or health conditions that may affect their strength, balance, and cognitive abilities. These conditions increase the chances of a fall.
Consequently, adults with chronic illnesses often use prescription drugs that may lower blood pressure or affect their attention. These over-the-counter medications and supplements can have substantial side effects and synergistic effects, too. According to the Merck Manual, over 40% of seniors take at least five drugs per week. It increases the risk of falling, particularly when an interaction between the medicines occurs.
Surgical procedures, such as hip replacements, may leave an older person less mobile, weak, and in pain and discomfort. Although immobility and uneasiness after the surgery are temporary, they can still be high-risk factors for a fall.
The CDC has indicated that a combination of risk factors causes most falls. So, the greater the number of risk factors a person has, the higher their odds of falling. Falls can cause broken bones, like wrist, arm, ankle, hip fractures, or head injuries.
According to WHO, falls can be prevented through different comprehensive and multifaceted strategies. Falls may be prevented through clinical interventions, with doctors helping a person identify their risk of experiencing a fall and make remedies or modify their lifestyle to avoid such risks. Clinical interventions can help treat correctable visual impairments, low blood pressure, and medication review and modification.
As environmental hazards contribute to a high percentage of falls, fixing or decluttering things considered hazards can help decrease the probability of a fall in a home. Screening within living environments for risks of falls and removing items that can trip a person in areas inside the house can avoid a fall from happening. Improving the brightness of lights at home can prevent a person from slipping on things they could not see. Also, increasing the number of safety equipment in the house, including handrails on the bed or stairs, grab bars in the bathroom, and grabber tools, can help seniors move independently.
Physiological change is inevitable for a person growing old; however, this may be decreased through exercising and engaging with different activities that can keep the body and mind active. Keeping the body physically and mentally active can help improve seniors’ health and enhance their minds, avoiding a fast decline in cognitive, sensory, and physical capabilities. This infographic of Euro-American Connections & Homecare discusses some of the factors that cause older adults to fall.