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How to Reduce the Risk of Falls

By Dr. Matt Narrett, Chief Medical Officer, Erickson Senior Living
July 22, 2021

An increasing number of older adults (and their health care providers) are aware of the risk of falls, yet far too many are still injured from falls each year. In 2018, one in four adults 65 years of age or older fell and one in 10 experienced a fall with significant injury. That resulted in 950,000 hospitalizations and 32,000 deaths in that year alone. Needless to say, preventing falls is of paramount importance as we emerge from a year of inactivity and deconditioning due to the pandemic.

Risk factors commonly associated with elderly slip and fall accidents

There are a number of risk factors for falling, but the good news is that many of them are modifiable. Risk factors include vision problems, difficulty walking, muscle weakness, pain, poorly fitting footwear, vitamin D deficiency, and home hazards. Please discuss these issues with your medical provider and explore opportunities to reduce risk through exercise; fitness and balance classes; physical therapy; and home modifications. Some of the simplest interventions can make a big difference.

Elderly fall prevention plan: Medication review

One important aspect of a visit with your medical provider is a careful review of your medications. Many drugs increase risk of falls including drugs affecting your central nervous system such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, opioids, sedatives, and benzodiazepines. Cardiovascular medication and antihypertensives can be associated with falls if they lower blood pressure too much, particularly when standing. Even some nonprescription medications such as allergy medications or sleep aids (don’t forget alcohol) can increase risk.

A recent study highlights why medications are such an important aspect of fall prevention. Researchers analyzed trends in prescription medication use and found that the percentage of older adults prescribed drugs known to increase the risk of falls rose from 57% in 1999 to 94% in 2017. In the same time period, they found that the fall-related death rate more than doubled. While there is no clear cause and effect between the increase in medication use and falls, this study highlights the relevance of having a medication review with your doctor.

Your healthcare provider can help you carefully weigh the pros and cons of each of your medicines. You can do your part by telling your doctor about all side effects, including over-the-counter drugs, even if you use them occasionally. A well-informed discussion with your doctor can help you determine if your medications are risky and whether it is time to consider safer alternatives.

Bear in mind, adjusting your medications is just one part of a comprehensive falls-prevention plan. In addition to steps mentioned above, the best approach will include an exercise program which may simply begin with physical therapy if you are frail, use an assistive device, or have difficulties getting out of a chair. A great resource with practical tips on exercise is the National Institute of Aging exercise site: nia.nih.gov/health/exercise-physical-activity.

Please take action if you have fallen recently or had a near miss. You can reduce your risk of falling and feel better and stronger in the process.


Enjoy preventative and responsive healthcare at Erickson Senior Living

Every Erickson Senior Living community offers best-in-class senior healthcare. From helping residents mitigating or treating fall-related injuries to memory care, our team of dedicated healthcare professionals is always available to help with any need. Find an Erickson Senior Living community near you to learn more.

 

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