Why Fall Prevention Is Different Outdoors & Why It Matters
Falls are a leading cause of both non-fatal and fatal injuries among older Americans, particularly people aged 65 and over.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), “Each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.” But did you know that being outside can increase the risk? In fact, a study released in 2017 found that nearly 50 percent of falls among older adults occur outdoors. But why is that exactly?
We know that seniors are more likely to fall for a variety of reasons, including decreased mobility and balance. The outdoors present several challenges that can lead to falls. Uneven walkways, a lack of railings to hold, and icy or wet conditions, among other elements increase the risk of falls.
Including fall prevention strategies in everyday life and falls prevention programs are important for older adults and their caregivers. But it’s especially important to determine ways to lower the risk of falling outside.
The Basics of Fall Prevention
Limiting the risk of falls among older adults requires a comprehensive approach. Many factors can increase the risk of falls, such as certain medications and their side effects, a lack of balance, difficulties walking, and the home environment.
Regular medical checkups, like those provided through the community based Senior LIFE program, are an important place to start when it comes to fall prevention. During those checkups, a doctor will perform a medical examination and ask about common fall risk factors, like dizziness. As a result, he or she may adjust medications or recommend lifestyle changes that can help limit falls.
Vision and hearing screenings are also important to help make sure people aged 65 and over stay healthy and lower the risk of falling.
If you or your loved one experience dizziness frequently, it’s important to rise to a standing position slowly. You’ll also want to make sure you’re wearing supportive shoes that are both comfortable and have treading or other features that help grip the ground.
Staying physically active is another way to combat increased fall risk.
For best results, choose a variety of exercises that include heart-pumping cardiovascular exercises, balance exercises, and strength training.
And finally, you’ll want to ensure the home environment is safe to navigate. Install handrails along stairs and in bathrooms, make sure all areas of the home are well-lit, remove clutter, and ensure rugs are securely fastened to the floor.
Taking Fall Prevention Outdoors
Falling outdoors is very common—as many as one-third of older adults fall outside at least once a year. Many of those adults fall more than once.
Outdoor falls occur for many reasons, like uneven walking surfaces, fall hazards like curbs or clutter, poor lighting outside, or inclement weather. The last factor we listed is a particular concern during the winter, when any type of precipitation combined with cold weather can lead to icy or slippery surfaces, which will greatly increase the risk of falls.
So what can be done to limit the risk of falling outside?
Many of the same things done to lower the risk of falling inside. Just as you took a look through your home to ensure it was safe, you also want to look at the outdoor areas around your home.
Make sure the walkways and entryways are well-lit, install handrails on stairs, consider adding “non-slip” materials to stairways, and keep the lawn, deck, or porch areas clear of debris, like fallen branches.
In winter weather, prep the surfaces for walking by sprinkling kitty litter or a melting substance on the walkways. If the sidewalk appears unsafe, choose to walk in the grass instead.
It’s also important to keep an eye on the height of curbs and stairs before stepping off them. We often misjudge how high we are off the ground, which can result in serious injury.
You may also want to provide your loved one a cane or walker for safer movement while enjoying the outdoors. Senior LIFE can help procure these items and train your loved one in their proper use.
What Happens If You Fall
Falling can lead to both minor and serious injuries. But falling outdoors can be particularly dangerous, since surfaces are usually hard. Falling on concrete, asphalt, stone, or wood can lead to serious injuries, like fractures and concussions.
With the proper falls prevention programs, the risk of falling is limited. But if a fall occurs, the wide range of services available through Senior LIFE can help members recover.
Immediately after a fall, medical care is often necessary. Senior LIFE provides all medically necessary services, and our community-based providers will work with the member and his or her caregivers to determine a care plan following a fall, as well as falls prevention programs.
Depending on a member’s individual needs, his or her doctor may recommend rehabilitation services, like services with a physical therapist and occupational therapist, which can help restore function after a fall. These services can also be helpful in improving balance and mobility, which will lower the risk of future falls.
Our goal matches with yours—to limit the risk of falls and provide the care needed to recover should a fall occur.
Senior LIFE offers cost-free consultations to help determine eligibility and get your loved one started. To learn if you are eligible for Senior LIFE, contact us today to set up a meeting!
Categories: Aging At Home