Fall in the elderly: causes and prevention
The population of Quebec, like the vast majority of Western countries, is aging. The evolution of our society allows older people today to have a more active lifestyle than before. To this effect, we place a high value on autonomy and home care. Nevertheless, a simple fall can turn an independent life into a dependent one. In Quebec, there are 14,000 hospitalizations following a fall of adults aged 65 and over each year. 20% of people in this age bracket who have suffered a hip fracture as a result of a fall, die within one year.
It is known that between 30% and 50% of falls are related to environmental factors. Researchers have identified a number of hazards, at home and in public places, that contribute to falls. Tripping objects, poor lighting, slippery or uneven surfaces or stairs are common risk factors.
The weakening of the body due to age can be accentuated by poor life habits. A sedentary lifestyle, a diet low in protein and calcium, as well as alcohol, all have consequences for the health of our bones. These habits make older populations even more vulnerable and increase the probability that a fall will occur and the resulting consequences will be serious (fracture).
Biological and medical risk factors are also important. The aging of a person is accompanied by changes in the body (decreased muscle mass, increased fat and weakened bones). To these effects can be added a slowing down of reflexes, a decrease in eyesight, in mobility and in balance. Getting around then becomes more demanding and difficult.
Physical activity is still the best way to reduce the risk of falling. Active people are in better shape and are more alert mentally. All the reasons are good to move: social activities, sports, clubs of all kinds. 20 minutes of daily exercise or at least three times a week, can greatly help with physical maintenance. In fact, the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults (65 Years & Older) is an excellent source of information with suggestions for staying active and healthy.
Strength and balance contribute to stability. It is therefore important to strengthen the legs to reduce the risk of falling, due to loss of balance. There are also many activities that help improve balance. Walking is a good example. When performed with walking sticks, this activity becomes much more stable, while increasing physical activity. Swimming is also a very good choice, as is cycling and golf.
It is also possible to reduce the use of medications by taking on a healthier lifestyle. Good nutrition, lots of omega-3s, good sleep habits and exercise are the ingredients for maintaining good health. It is recommended that you have your prescription medications validated every year to make sure that you have the correct dose. This will help to try to reduce the amount of medication necessary.
If you feel less and less stable when you are standing, do not hesitate to contact us to evaluate your strength, stability and balance. Our team of therapists will provide you with advice on exercise, nutrition and prevention. Do not let a fall put you down!
Main tips for preventing falls
- In your home, reduce clutter and avoid loose carpets;
- Make sure you have easy access to the bath or shower;
- Wear non-slip shoes and slippers with good support;
- Have your vision and hearing checked every year;
- Have your prescription medications validated regularly.