Falls can happen to anyone. Falls can happen in a variety of ways. And sometimes falls can cause injury, not just to our pride but also physically.
Although falls can happen to anyone, our risk increases as we age.
- Falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians, and
- 20-30% of seniors experience one or more falls each year.
- tripping over some toys,
- slipping on ice, or
- losing our balance
Causes of falls may include
- poor balance
- decreased muscle strength
- reduced vision or hearing and
- unsafe conditions in and around the home.
Luckily these are all factors that can be modified or improved to help keep you on your feet.
How to Prevent Falls
1) Stay Active
- “Move it or lose it”. Staying active is so important to help reduce your risk of disease, declining cognitive function and of course falls. Engaging in physical activity is one of your best defences against falls.
- Myth: “If I limit activity, I will not fall”. Doing less can actually increase the risk of falling as it leads to decreased strength and endurance.
- Exercising and staying active builds strong muscles to improve your balance, strength and mobility which are all needed for falls prevention.
- Strength or resistance training can help build strong muscles, while cardiovascular training can help build up your endurance. Improving your endurance helps to keep you active for longer periods of time without needing to take a rest break.
- Strength and endurance training don’t require fancy gyms or equipment – they can include body weight exercises that can be done in the comfort of your own home. If you are curious about how to build your strength and endurance, talk to your physical therapist.
- Improving your balance can lead to reduced falls and fear of falling, faster walking speed and overall improved physical functioning.
- Balance relies on three body systems:
- Proprioception – our muscles and joints provide information that tells us where our body and limbs are in space
- Vestibular system – small canals in your inner ear that detect your head movements and its position in space
- Visual system – being able to see our environment to determine if there are any incoming hazards that may throw you off balance.
3) Reduce fall hazards in your home
- Be mindful of pets – leashes and wandering pets can trip you up.
- Avoid having boxes or small items on the floor. Keep them on a shelf at eye level or out of the way of frequent walking paths.
- If possible avoid having area rugs in your home. Especially for those who tend to shuffle their feet, it is easy to get caught up in the rug and fall.
- Keep pathways and stairwells well lit, especially at night. You may want to consider using a night light.
- Consider installing equipment to help you get around your home. This can include:
- grab bars to help stabilize and/or pull you up
- hand rails in stairwells
- a bed rail to help you get in and out of bed
- or a Lifeline medical alert system that will notify a service provider if you do fall.
Consider speaking to a physical or occupational therapist as they can help you choose the right aid for your home.
4) Walking Aids
- Consider using a walking aid or cane which can provide support to help you get around easier. Don’t be embarrassed about using aids for daily living – they not only help keep you safe but active as well.
If you are someone who struggles with balance or has a history of falls, come and talk with one of our physical therapists who can help you reduce your risk and fear of falling.
We have created some simple videos on Senior Strength that you or someone you know may find beneficial --- be sure to check them out!