One of the biggest causes of death in the elderly is not what you think it is. It’s falls. And a traditional fall prevention program may not be the best prevention. Those who don’t have that much experience with the elderly may wonder how falls can be so much of a threat. What with cancer, heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s and more recently, COVID-19 stalking our elderly, you would think falls are way down on the list.
Here are some scary facts about falls:
- More than 1/3 of people 65 and older experience falls each year
- In half of those falls, the people fall more than once
- The risk doubles or even triples in people with cognitive impairment or a history of falls
- Falls can be the number one reason for hospital admission for those over 65. In Canada it makes up 85% of those admissions
And it’s not just the falls. The falls mean broken bones and hips. That means potentially surgery. Surgery in the elderly is very risky. At the very least it probably means a significant amount of time in bed. Which means the elderly person becomes weaker.
That means they are more susceptible to future falls. They also become more afraid of falling. Which means they will be worried about moving around as much. Their body will become weaker and more susceptible to falls due to lack of exercise.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the fall risk.
This Fall Prevention Program Reduces the Risk
Many fall prevention programs focus on reducing clutter in the home, adding grab rails, and looking out ahead of time for tripping hazards.
All very good ideas. We think any fall prevention program for the elderly should go further. It should also make it so the person is able to move without a high risk of falling. Their body should be able to compensate for any sudden balance shifts.
Exercise would seem like an obvious part of any fall prevention program. The stronger the person is, the less their risk of falling. Not only does exercise help prevent falls. It also reduces the chances of injury if you do fall. We have numerous blog posts on exercises (here, here and here) that can help the elderly prevent falls.
The best exercises for preventing falls are strength and balance exercises. Whether it’s a full weight training program, or just trying to balance on one leg, the exercises work. Tai Chi is also a good exercise for balance and preventing falls.
Here’s a good video on balance exercises that can help any fall prevention program:
Another way to help reduce falls is to maintain a good level of Vitamin D. We are big fans of Vitamin D for seniors. There’s a reason for it. It helps seniors. And many seniors are deficient.
The primary reason we have Vitamin D is to help the absorption of Calcium into our bones. Inadequate levels of Vitamin D mean much weaker bones. Bones are what support everything else in our bodies.
If the bones are weak, the falls will come. And the bones become pretty weak in a lot of older adults.
There are other ways to prevent falls in the elderly. Exercise and Vitamin D are a great way to start in any fall prevention program.