More than one in three people age 65 or older falls each year. That amounts to about 1.6 million emergency room visits from older adults who sustain fall-related injuries. Though it may seem as if falls just happen, there are things you can do to reduce your loved one’s risk of falling and sustaining injuries that can greatly reduce their quality of life.
Dr. Mariana Dangiolo is a geriatrician at UCF Health and assistant professor of family medicine and geriatrics at UCF’s College of Medicine. She advises seniors and their families on steps to prevent falls. “There are many risk factors that play into someone’s likelihood of sustaining an injury due to a fall,” Dr. Dangiolo said. “But most of these things are outside of your control, such as their leg strength, balance and eyesight. What you can control is their living environment and ensuring that they are under the care of a geriatrician experienced in conducting medication reviews to see how medications or reactions between medications can cause dizziness or confusion.”
Dr. Dangiolo recommends making the following adjustments to an elder’s living environment to protect against falls:
Cut the clutter
Examine the pathways and stairways in the home. Don’t leave anything out that might be a trip hazard. Keep shoes in a closet or in a basket near the door.
Also, reorganize to make things easy to reach. Don’t put things on top shelves if the senior must use a stool or strain to reach the objects.
Beware of slippery spots
Bath mats and nonslip adhesive tape are inexpensive and easy to install in the bathroom and on stairs. Remove or tape down loose rugs that can be a trip hazard.
Leave on a light
Anyone can fall or miss a step if they can’t see where they’re going. Make sure there’s a light on at the top and bottom of all staircases and a nightlight in the bathroom.
Introduce a cane or walker
If your loved one needs an assistive device but is hesitant to start using one, help encourage them. Make sure walkers and scooters are fitted properly and that the user receives instruction on how to use the device properly.
It’s helpful for seniors to have a hand rail on both sides of a staircase. Also, install grab bars near the tub, shower and toilet and ensure they are securely attached to the wall.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.