Elderly people are more prone to falling than other population groups. The causal factors are varied and complicated but the most common are age-related variations in the strength and in the general balance of the elderly as they advance in age. These can be exacerbated by comorbidities that include visual impairment, psychotropic or psychotherapeutic medications as well as osteoarthritic conditions. About 30% of elder falls result in significant injuries that usually require medical treatment. Other times (10% of the time), the fall can result in fractures. Falls are currently reported to be one of the most common concerns for elderly individuals. About 33% of people aged over 65 and also about 50% of all institutionalized persons who are aged over 80 fall each year. Approximately 50% of the elderly who fall experience another fall within the same year. Overall, most of the falls- about 50% – occur in the person’s home. Falls are the main reason elderly people go to emergency departments. Most falls are instigated by a change in location, such as while walking from, say, a bed to a chair or when getting up in the restroom or when trying to go up or come down the stairs.
As people age their physiology changes as well, which increases their susceptibility to falling as well, particularly when they start developing chronic medical conditions. Neurological conditions such as strokes have been associated with falls, probably due to their associated visual spatial problems and balance impairment. It is also true that older people experience a decrease in their ability to rapidly contract their muscles in their extremities, leading to slower responses. Poor depth perception hinders the elderly from quickly getting up from their chairs without risking falling. Those working with this population group ought to take into account their vulnerability and proneness to falling and to sustaining other injuries. Falls have psychological consequences. For instance, the elderly who has fallen down once might be tempted to limit activities that require being mobile because of fear of falling again. This can lead to other health problems such as weakening of muscles, which can increase the possibility of falling again, causing a vicious cycle.
In order to mitigate the incidence and prevalence of falling most states have established fall-prevention screening, referrals, and programs. However, there is need to do more as the elderly population has increased, significantly. Caregivers of elderly folks should ask health care providers about respective state programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a compendium of effective prevention of falls, presented in 22 scientifically tested interventions grouped into 3 categories for all state organizations wanting to utilize them. There three categories are: exercise-based, home modifications and multifaceted. Some of the fall-prevention tips for the elderly are:
- Install grab bars besides the bath tub or shower as well as next to the toilet,
- Always use a nonslip mat in the bath tub or shower,
- Have railings installed on both sides of the stairways,
- Improve the elderly person’s lighting and use nightlights,
- Ask their doctor or their pharmacist to review the medications to identify those that may cause dizziness or drowsiness….etc.
The Bible has a lot of counsel regarding caring for elderly parents and other family members who are not able to care for themselves (1 Timothy 5: 3-4, 8). We should never allow the cares of the world to overshadow the things that are most important – serving God through serving people, especially the people in our own family according to the flesh and according to the Spirit.
Berry, S.D. & Miller, R. (2008). Falls: Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, and Relationship to Fracture. Current Osteoporosis Reports, 6(4): 149–154.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Simple Steps to Reduce Fall Risks. Accessed from http://www.cdc.gov/media/matte/2012/07_falls.pdf
Discover time-tested guidelines for elder care and disease prevention that will change your life for good at: The Perfect Prescription by Reigh Simuzoshya.