Aging is an inevitable process of getting older that is accompanied by changes in the body cells and a higher risk of health issues. In particular, falls and fall-related injuries are among the most common problems in older adults. According to Frieson et al. (2018), due to the global population aging, an increase in fall incidence rates is expected to contribute to a rise in fall-related mortality, hospitalizations, and associated costs. Therefore, it is essential to examine the issue and identify the ways to prevent and manage falls in seniors. This paper aims to discuss the problem of falls and injury in older adults and examine relevant prevention and management strategies.
Statistics and Data
To begin with, it is necessary to consider data and statistics available with regard to falls and injuries in seniors. As reported by Paul (2018), “30% of people over 65 years of age and 50% of people over 80 years of age are likely to fall within the next year” (p. 109). There is a number of consequences resulting from falls in the elderly, such as pain, bruises, skin tear, bleeding, head trauma, joint dislocations and distortions, soft tissue injuries, restricted activity, or functional decline.
Furthermore, incidents often result in major injuries that might become fatal, such as fractures, subdural hematomas, or intracranial bleeding. Statistically, falls and fall-related issues are considered the fifth leading cause of death in the elderly (Paul, 2018). Another serious fall-related issue is the distress and fear developed as a result of an incident. According to Paul (2018), “30–40% of fallers develop a fear of falling and curtail their activities” (p. 109). Therefore, there is a need for health care practitioners to implement evidence-based interventions to prevent falls in older adults. Even though falls are not always preventable, a systematic approach to identifying and lowering risks can reduce the injuries and incident rates.
Leading Causes and Risk Factors of Falls and Injury in Older Adults
In order to prevent falls and injury in older adults, it is essential to determine the leading causes and risk factors of incidents. Research shows that a number of reasons can result in minor to serious injuries. As Moncada and Mire (2017) report, potentially modifiable risk factors for falls include balance, gait, or sensory impairment, limited activity, foot problems, muscle weakness, musculoskeletal pain, cardiac and neurologic issues, and acute illness. A fall can happen as a result of environmental hazards, such as wet or polished floors, slippery rugs, and carpets, lack of lighting, stairs, or ladders. In addition, fear of falling or depression can limit a person’s activities and lower self-confidence, causing stiffness of joints and muscles. Furthermore, medication or assistive device use, low body mass index, anemia, cancer, and inappropriate footwear can increase the risk of injuries in the elderly. Nonmodifiable determinants include age older than 80 years, arthritis, dementia, history of fractures and falling, as well as recent dismissal from the hospital (Moncada & Mire, 2017). As can be seen, it is crucial to address the problem and reduce the risks of falling for the elderly.
Prevention and Management of Falls and Fall-Related Injuries in Seniors
Preventive strategies are critical in managing the problem and creating a safer environment for older persons to avoid fall-related injuries and other adverse consequences of the incident. In this regard, health care providers must raise people’s awareness of the risk factors for the elderly and provide evidence-based information about reducing the danger and addressing the problem (Frieson et al., 2018). This paper discusses preventive and management strategies for falls in the elderly in hospitals and at home.
Preventing and Managing Falls in Hospitals
Within a hospital setting, falls in elderly patients are a common problem. In fact, research shows that the fall risk of patients in a nursing home is three times higher than that of people living in the community (Moncada & Mire, 2017). To prevent and manage falls and injuries, a systematic approach must be implemented in extended-care and rehabilitation hospitals. As per Moncada and Mire (2017), measures can include assessment identifying risk factors; “a patient and staff education; alert signs; safety and toileting rounds; bed and chair alarms; footwear advice; and medication review” (p. 245). Furthermore, physicians should avoid prescribing restraints when possible since they increase the risk for falls and fall-related injuries.
Another way of reducing incidents within a hospital setting is to implement exercise programs, particularly for cognitively impaired patients. As Moncada and Mire (2017) report, this intervention is more effective “if balance exercise is combined with … resistance training, and performed two to three times per week for more than six months” (p. 245). The supplementation of vitamin D is another way to reduce fall rates in hospitals. Overall, it is essential to educate patients, improve safety measures, and implement a fall risk assessment procedure to address the fall problem in hospitals. Reviewing and modifying medications when needed can also help reduce the injury risk for the elderly.
Preventing and Managing Falls at Home
Preventing and managing falls at home is another critical objective for decreasing fall-related injuries in the elderly. Generally, the primary goal is to remove hazards and maintain safe conditions within the household where an older person lives. As stated by Paul (2018), “falls are preventable, and a systematic approach to identifying risks and addressing them in a concerted manner is key to prevention” (p. 109). In particular, it is recommended to improve lighting in the house and provide additional sources of light for steps and outside areas at night. Furthermore, clutter and tripping hazards, such as boxes, electrical cords, stands, or tables, must be removed from frequently used areas. Nonslip floors, rugs, and carpets are preferable to avoid falls and injury. In addition, it is recommended to store necessities and food in easily accessible places, as well as clean spilled liquids or grease immediately.
Another way to fall-prove a house is to install handrails and grab bars for stairways and bathrooms. For instance, such assistive devices can help prevent falls and injury when using a toilet, shower, or bathtub. In addition, it is critical to wear properly fitting shoes that do not slip to ensure that no additional risk for fall is added (Moncada & Mire, 2017). Finally, physical activity that improves balance, flexibility, and coordination can be particularly useful for preventing falls and related injuries in the elderly.
To conclude, falls in older adults remain one of the most common problems that result in minor to major injuries and, in certain cases, might be fatal. To prevent falls, a number of strategies can be implemented both in hospital settings and at home. It is critical to raise people’s awareness of the problem and inform the community on safety and preventive measures to help the elderly avoid falls and fall-related injuries.
Frieson, C. W., Tan, M. P., Ory, M. G., & Smith, M. L. (Eds.). (2018). Evidence-based practices to reduce falls and fall-related injuries among older adults. Frontiers Media SA.
Moncada, L. V. V., & Mire, L. G. (2017). Preventing falls in older persons. American Family Physician, 96(4), 240-247. Web.
Paul, S. (2018). Falls: Prevention and management. In B. Nair (Ed.), Geriatric Medicine (pp. 109-119). Springer.