why do the elderly fall so much
Falls are the leading cause of death, injury and hospital admissions among the elderly population. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), one out of every four Americans aged 65 and older falls every year. Not only are seniors more prone to falling, but they are also more susceptible to fall-related injuries such as a broken hip or head trauma. Understanding why older individuals are at an increased risk can help family caregivers take the proper precautions to keep their loved ones safely on their feet. Several factors contribute to the fact that than younger people. Decline in Physical Fitness. Many adults become less active as they get older, which exacerbates the physical effects of aging. Failure to engage in even mild exercise on a regular basis results in reduced muscle strength, decreased bone mass, loss of balance and coordination, and reduced flexibility. Age-related eye diseases can make it difficult, if not impossible, to detect fall hazards, such as steps, puddles and thresholds. Even if a senior is in top physical condition, failing to see obstacles or changes in ground level can lead to a nasty tumble. Refusing to follow physician recommendations for treatment, including wearing eyeglasses and using necessary low vision equipment can lead to a fall as well. Medications. A wide variety of medications can increase a seniorвs risk of falling. Side-effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness and low blood pressure, can all contribute to an accident. Sedatives, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, opioids and some cardiovascular drugs are the most common culprits. According to the Merck Manual, just over 40 percent of seniors take at least five drugs per week. Taking multiple medications increases the risk of medication interactions and falling.
Keep in mind that over-the-counter medications and supplements can have powerful side effects and synergistic effects, too. Chronic Diseases. Health conditions such as,
and cause weakness in the extremities, poor grip strength, balance disorders and cognitive impairment. Poor physical health increases a personвs initial risk of falling and minimizes their ability to respond to and recover from hazards, like tripping or slipping. Peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage, can cause numbness in the feet, making it very difficult for a senior to sense environmental hazards and get around safely. Surgical Procedures. and other surgeries can leave an elderly person weak, in pain and discomfort, and less mobile than they were before the procedure. This can be temporary while a patient heals or a new and lasting problem. Environmental Hazards. The majority of falls in the elderly population occur in or around seniorsв homes. Environmental factors such as poor lighting, clutter, areas of disrepair, loose carpets, slick floors and lack of safety equipment can jeopardize a seniorвs safety in their home. Behavioral Hazards. A personвs fall risk is influenced by their unique lifestyle and behaviors. This includes the types of activities they engage in, the level of physical demand these activities require, and their willingness and ability to adapt their routine for enhanced safety. For example, laundry is a normal daily activity for many people, but it can involve a great deal of exertion for a senior, especially if they transport a heavy laundry basket. This can be risky on its own, but if they also refuse to wear secure, non-skid footwear or attempt to navigate stairs, they put themselves at greater risk.
Failing to modify behaviors to account for new or increasing difficulties is a serious, yet common, contributing factor for falls in older individuals. A fall rarely occurs due to only one of the reasons above. When any of these factors combine, it can lead to a serious, possibly life-threatening injury. Even if a loved one is lucky to escape a fall uninjured, the experience can leave them shaken. The fear of falling again can cause them to withdraw and become more sedentary, which often leads to further physical and even mental decline. To keep your loved one safe and healthy, learn how you can modify their home and lifestyle to prevent fall-related injuries. As we age, our. These gradual changes add up to increased fall risk for older adults. After tripping or stumbling, a younger adult can rely on strong muscles and sharp reflexes to quickly regain balance or heal quickly from injury. But an older adult has a weaker body response and is far more likely to fall and have lasting damage в even if theyвre already using a walker or cane. In fact, the says that people age 65+ have a greater than 25% chance of falling. And if someone falls once, their chance of falling again doubles, meaning thereвs over 50% chance of a second fall. This is serious because falls are a leading cause of lost independence and ability. Seniors often arenвt able to recover fully from the trauma, their overall health declines, and their care needs increase significantly. We explain the top 6 age-related changes that increase senior fall risk, typical injuries, and ways to reduce fall risk. 1. Decreasing strength Muscle loss starts very early, around age 30.
In older adults, less muscle means less strength and weaker bones. 2. Weaker sense of balance Many body systems work together to keep us standing upright. can make it more difficult for seniors to stay balanced. 3. Declining eyesight Vision helps us keep our balance and avoid obstacles. As, so does the ability to stay upright and clearly see whatвs in our path. 4. Loss of flexibility Age and health conditions make seniors less flexible, especially in hips and ankles. This stiffness increases the likelihood of falling. 5. Decreased endurance Not being able to endure physical activity like standing or walking for a reasonable amount of time will increase fall risk. 6. Declining ability and desire to walk Continuing to walk will improve strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance for older adults. However, many seniors become less active and fall into a negative cycle where less activity leads to less strength and balance. That leads to even less activity as their physical abilities keep declining. In older adults, falls typically cause hip fractures and head injuries. Theyвre also the leading cause of death from injury, often from traumatic brain injury (TBI). Even if an injury isnвt life threatening, falls have harsh long-term consequences for older adults because their bodies usually arenвt able to recover fully. They can end up needing extended stays in. Additional serious effects of falling: Every year, 2. 8 million seniors are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries The good news is that there are many simple ways to reduce fall risk. , and making Encourage safe, to build strength, balance, and flexibility Recommended for you: Source: Image:
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