As we age, our risk of falling increases, and the consequences of a fall can be severe, especially for seniors. Falls can result in foot, ankle, arm, wrist, and hip fractures, head injuries, and a loss of independence. About 36 million falls are reported among older adults each year, resulting in more than 32,000 deaths. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments for injuries sustained in a fall. However, the good news is that many falls can be prevented with proactive measures and awareness. September is fall prevention month, we want to help with fall prevention in seniors and provide practical tips and strategies to keep them safe.
Understanding the Risk Factors
Before diving into fall prevention strategies, it’s crucial to understand the risk factors that make seniors more vulnerable to falls:
- Physical Changes: Age-related changes in balance, muscle strength, and coordination can make it harder to maintain stability.
- Medical Conditions: Chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease can affect mobility and increase the risk of falling.
- Medications: Some medications can cause dizziness or affect balance, potentially increasing the likelihood of falling.
- Environmental Hazards: Cluttered living spaces, poor lighting, loose rugs, and slippery floors can contribute to falls.
- Vision and Hearing Loss: Impaired vision or hearing can make it challenging to detect obstacles or hazards.
Fall Prevention Strategies
- Stay Active: Encourage regular physical activity to improve strength, balance, and coordination. Activities like walking and water aerobics can be excellent choices.
- Medication Management: Regularly review medications with your healthcare provider to ensure they don’t have side effects affecting balance or coordination.
- Regular Health Check-ups: Seniors should have regular check-ups to monitor chronic conditions and address any emerging health concerns.
- Home Safety: Make necessary modifications to the home environment, such as removing tripping hazards, installing grab bars in the bathroom, and improving lighting.
- Proper Footwear: Encourage seniors to wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes with nonslip soles. Use padding, insoles, or whatever special footwear you are prescribed. Be sure to wear these, along with comfortable, sensible shoes, every day.
- Do not ignore pain: Foot pain is not normal at any age! You likely have a treatable condition. For a proper diagnosis and intervention, be sure to pay attention to your feet and see a foot and ankle surgeon if and when you experience pain.
- Examine your feet: Regular at-home foot examinations are critical to the overall health of your feet and ankles. If you notice any bumps, lumps, or other changes in your feet, make an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon.
- Balance Exercises: Incorporate balance-enhancing exercises into daily routines to improve stability. Simple stretching exercises can also help you maintain strength and mobility in your feet and ankles, as well as provide pain relief. Talk to your foot and ankle surgeon at Idaho Foot & Ankle Center for appropriate exercises for you.
- Assistive Devices: If needed, provide mobility aids such as canes or walkers and ensure they are used correctly. Ensure seniors have regular eye and hearing exams and use corrective aids as needed.
- Nutrition: Promote a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D for bone health. Encourage seniors to have bone density scans and follow recommendations for osteoporosis management.
- Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can lead to weakness and dizziness, so seniors should drink enough fluids daily.
- Fall Detection Devices: Consider using fall detection devices or alert systems that can automatically call for help in case of a fall.
Fall prevention is essential for the well-being and independence of seniors. By addressing risk factors, making necessary home modifications, promoting a healthy lifestyle, and providing education and support, we can significantly reduce the risk of falls among older adults. Remember that fall prevention is a collaborative effort involving healthcare professionals, caregivers, and the seniors themselves. By working together, we can help seniors enjoy a safer and more active lifestyle as they age.
If you or your loved ones are experiencing any foot or ankle pain, contact Dr. Kylin Kovac, DPM, FACFAS, or Dr. Jed Erickson, DPM at Idaho Foot and & Ankle Center. With their specialized education, training, and experience in issues of the foot and ankle, they will find the right diagnosis and the right treatment plan for you to get you on the path to recovery as soon as possible. Idaho Foot & Ankle Center also offers in-house x-rays as well as many innovative treatments including MLS Laser Therapy and Lapiplasty to help you feel better faster! Foot pain is not normal, Dr. Kovac and Dr. Erickson are ready to help get you back to the activities you love!