Fall Prevention Guide:
How To Avoid Serious and Fatal Injuries
In Canada, a senior endures a fall every 12 seconds. Of these fall victims, 67% of them suffer from life threatening injuries if they aren’t found within 72 hours.
The best way to combat injuries to the elderly from accidental falls, is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Fall prevention is a defensive approach which will prevent the amount of falls that can cause injury, or even death to senior citizens. Fall prevention is also extremely important for your mental health. Studies have shown that preventing falls significantly prolongs the need to move to a long-term care facility. By being diligent, fall prevention can increase your confidence and mental health which will help you maintain your independence. In this Fall Prevention Guide, we will:
- Provide a checklist on how to prevent falls in and around your home
- Offer lifestyle tips and advice to further strengthen fall prevention
- Examine health conditions that will increase the risk of falling
- Explore the effects if you have fallen, but cannot get up
- Identify the pattern of the vicious cycle circle of falling
- A step by step guide on how to get up from a fall
- Lifeline’s approach to fall prevention
Lifeline Fall Prevention Checklist
As we get older, items in our home that used to be virtually harmless start to pose a greater risk. Carpets, stairs, floors, and even pets can be dangerous. The good news is that many falls can be prevented. Home safety evaluations and modifications can be self-conducted or performed by professional caregivers. In particular, those that are administered by a nurse, physical therapist, or occupational therapist, have been shown to reduce falls risk by nearly 20%.
For the aging population, falls in and around the home are the most frequently occurring accident. Falls in the home most commonly occur in bathrooms and bedrooms, as well as on stairs. Making a few modifications in the home can prevent dangerous situations, such as slippery floors, poor lighting, loose rugs, raised thresholds, and clutter.
To safe proof your home to prevent future falls, start by visiting each room individually within the home. Then look at the space objectively and ask: Is this safe? Are there objects or items that present falls risk? If so, there are many ways to create a safer home.
The following checklist is designed to help seniors minimize the risk of falling in their home:
Outside your home
- Paint the edges of outdoor steps and any steps that are especially narrow or are higher or lower than the rest.
- Paint outside stairs with a mixture of sand and paint for better traction. Keep outdoor walkways clear and well-lit.
- Clear snow and ice from entrances and sidewalks.
Inside your home
- Remove all extraneous clutter in your house.
- Keep telephone and electrical cords out of pathways.
- Tack rugs and glue vinyl flooring so they lie flat. Remove or replace rugs or runners that tend to slip, or attach nonslip backing.
- Ensure that carpets are firmly attached to the stairs.
- Do not stand on a chair to reach things. Store frequently used objects where you can reach them easily.
Keep a well-lit home
- Have a lamp or light switch that you can easily reach without getting out of bed.
- Use night lights in the bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
- Keep a flashlight handy.
- Have light switches at both ends of stairs and halls. Install handrails on both sides of stairs.
- Turn on the lights when you go into the house at night.
- Add grab bars in shower, tub and toilet areas.
- Use nonslip adhesive strips or a mat in shower or tub.
- Consider sitting on a bench or stool in the shower.
- Consider using an elevated toilet seat.
- Use helping devices, such as canes, as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Wear nonslip, low-heeled shoes or slippers that fit snugly. Avoid walking around in stocking feet.
- Review medications with your doctor or pharmacist. Some drugs, including over-the-counter drugs, can make you drowsy, dizzy and unsteady.
- Discuss safe amounts of alcohol intake with your physician.
- Have your hearing and eyesight tested.
- Inner ear problems can affect balance.
- Vision problems make it difficult to see potential hazards.
- Exercise regularly to improve muscle flexibility, strength, and balance.
- Talk to your healthcare professional about exercise programs that are right for you.
- If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, sit down or stay seated until your head clears.
- Stand up slowly to avoid unsteadiness.
Most common causes of falls in and around the home:
Health and age-related changes
- Problems with balance
- Slow reflexes
- Poor eyesight
- Use of certain medications
Dangerous situations in the home
- Slippery floors
- Poor lighting
- Electrical cords in pathways
- Loose rugs
- Raised thresholds
Lifestyle Fall Prevention Tips:
In addition to the checklist, there are more things you can do to prevent dangerous falls. Below are some questions you need to ask yourself if you are determined to prevent falls. Each point that you answer YES to will decrease your chance of becoming a victim.
Do I exercise regularly?
Regular, moderate physical activity increases your muscle strength and balance. Your healthcare provider can provide an extra exercise program that’s right for you.
Do I follow a sensible, balanced diet?
Good nutrition results in higher energy. And for stronger bones, remember to include calcium and vitamin D if approved by your doctor.
Have I done a home safety inspection
Eliminate obvious hazards (such as poor lighting, throw rugs and clutter). Add safety modifications (such as grab bars nonslip mats and night lights).
Do I take extra care?
Take your time and think ahead, especially in new or unfamiliar places. When you rise from your chair, stand for a few seconds before walking.
Do I wear the right shoes?
Select sturdy, low-heeled shoes with rubber soles for traction. Make sure they are fitted properly.
Has my healthcare provider reviewed my medications?
Be sure to report all medications you are taking, both prescription and over the counter, so that your healthcare provider can assess the benefits and risks of each drug.
Have I discussed my fears with my healthcare provider?
Tell your doctor if you’ve experienced a fall, or if you’re having dizziness, balance problems or impaired vision. Balance classes, physical therapy or occupational therapy may be recommended to help you walk more safely and to get up correctly if you do fall.
Do I have a medical alert service?
Knowing that prompt help is available can give you the confidence to be as active as possible.
Chronic Health Conditions Increase The Risk of Falls Dramatically.
Reduced muscular strength and standing balance increases the risk of falling.
Lack of exercise can lead to weak legs, which increases the chance of falling.
Impairs mobility and is a measurable predictor for recurrent falls.
Numerous factors are associated with an increased risk of falling and fall-related injuries, but none is as potentially preventable or reversible as medication use.
Fear of Falling
Fear of falling often leads to a reduced activity level which in turn increases the risk of falling.
Episodes of light-headedness and dizziness interfere with balance, coordination, and vision.
Common complications, such as peripheral neuropathy, retinopathy, and nephropathy, work independently and interdependently to increase falls risk.
Being proactive and taking care of yourself is great, but sometimes things are out of your control. Certain medical conditions can greatly increase the risk of falling. Are you over 65 and suffer from any of these health problems? If so, the risk of falling is much higher.
Approximately 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health problem, and one third are limited in their activity because of these problems. Many of the common chronic health conditions that affect older adults have a direct correlation to increased falls risk.
What can happen after a fall?
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 60% of all nonfatal emergency hospital visits are attributed to falls from seniors.
The initial fall can take its toll, but what can happen after a fall if you aren’t able to get up? One half of seniors are unable to get up from a fall without assistance. Becoming helpless by not being able to get up from a fall can be extremely detrimental to your long term health. Getting up or getting help as quickly as possible will help prevent further injury from occurring.
Major complications after a fall:
If you fall and cannot get up, prolonged lie times can lead to serious complications and other issues that might require hospitalization.
- Pressure Ulcers: Also known as “bedsores” can develop when pressure is applied to the same area skin for prolonged periods of time. This can happen if you fall and are unable to change positions. Most pressure ulcers can heal with treatment, but in some cases, they may never heal properly.
- Rhabdomyolysis: Triggered by muscle damage caused by injury, rhabdomyolysis is the release of myoglobin into the bloodstream. In severe cases, people may require dialysis to fight kidney damage.
- Dehydration: Being without food or water over long periods of time can be quite damaging. It can lead to confusion, postural hypotension, delirium, and even death.
- Aspiration Pneumonia: A breathing condition caused by swelling and/or infection to the lungs. It can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome and death.
Another major problem which can happen after a fall is the increased risk for additional falls. Repeated falls are 4x more likely to occur for the first two weeks after being discharged from the hospital for fall accidents. This can cause a vicious cycle of falls that continues to repeat.
The fear of falling plays a critical role in the vicious cycle.
The fear of falling may lead you into cutting back on physical activity. Less activity leads to loss of strength, reduced muscle tone, balance problems, decline in overall health, and often depression – all of which makes it more likely you will fall again. It’s a vicious cycle, but by transforming your fear into action, you have a better chance to avoid the fall cycle.
The risk of falling is higher amongst people aged 65 and over, however, the elderly are not the only ones affected.
Anyone can fall, young or old, male or female. The injuries sustained from an untimely fall can impact anyone and is not exclusive to the aging population. Generally speaking, people over the age of 65 are statistically more susceptible to falling, but if you have any type of heart condition, are a stroke survivor, have reduced mobility, suffer from vertigo, or any type of traumatic brain injury, taking fall prevention precautions can improve the quality of your life.
What should you do after a fall?
Whether it’s your first time falling, or a repeat fall, there are certain steps you can perform by yourself to try and help improve the situation. By following these three steps, we hope that if you do fall, you can recover to a proper position.
After your fall has occurred, the first thing you’ll want to do is prepare yourself to get back up.
Getting up quickly or the wrong way could make an injury worse. If you are hurt, call for help using a medical alert service or a telephone.
Look around for a sturdy piece of furniture or the bottom of a staircase. Don’t try to stand up on your own.
Roll over onto your side by turning your head in the direction you are trying to roll, and then move your shoulders, arm, hips, and finally, your leg over.
After you have done the necessary preparations, you’ll want to begin to rise towards a sitting position.
Push your upper body up. Lift your head and pause for a few moments to steady yourself.
Slowly get up on your hands and knees and crawl to a sturdy chair.
Place your hands on the seat of the chair and slide one foot forward so it is flat on the floor.
Finally, when possible, you’ll want to secure yourself sitting in a chair.
Keep the other leg bent with your knee on the floor.
From this kneeling position, slowly rise and turn your body to sit in the chair.
Sit for a few minutes before you try to do anything else.
You have other options as well.
Philips Lifeline has dedicated its time and resources into helping older adults get the protection they need for falling. We understand that holding on to your independence is important as you age. This is why we have made it our goal to provide the very best technology to assist in fall prevention.
We offer products for preventing falls and getting help when you need it the most.
Our products are equipped with AutoAlert Fall Detection Technology, to ensure that you will get the help you need in the fastest amount of time possible.
AutoAlert technology has built in SMART sensors that can tell if you fall and will call the Lifeline response centre automatically.
The HomeSafe with AutoAlert help button is worn as a pendant with an adjustable neck cord. This small, discreet device includes the added protection of automatic fall detection.
Having AutoAlert means that you can rest easy knowing if a fall occurs and leaves you confused or even unconscious, the fall detection will automatically alert our Response Centres that help may be needed.1 HomeSafe with AutoAlert is the most proven fall detection technology in a pendant on the Canadian market today. Over 200,000 falls have been detected by AutoAlert.