Debunking the Myths of an Older Person Tripping and Falling

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While aging in place is what most seniors prefer, it is not without its challenges. Seniors who live alone are always at a risk of falling if they don’t have the right support at home.

Older adults with mobility issues are highly prone to tripping and falling down. A paper published by Harvard University reported that 9.6 million older adults in the United States have mobility-related issues. The consequences of falls in the elderly are severe. Not only do falls cause broken bones and head injuries, but studies also show that seniors who fall once almost definitely fall again. Out of the 36 million older adult who falls each year, more than 32,000 falls are fatal. Using mobility aids like step stools, bathroom grab bars helps to avoid tripping and falling among older adults

However, there are a lot of myths surrounding an older person tripping and falling that we are about to debunk. Let’s take a look at them.

Myths & Facts of Olders Tripping and Falling

Myth # 1

I will never fall. It only happens to other people.

Unfortunately, the truth is that one out of four older adults falls. You are at a higher risk of falling than you think. It is important to be aware that it is likely to happen to you. You can then equip yourself with the necessary support to prevent falls in the elderly

Myth # 2

Falling is a normal part of aging.

Falling is not a normal part of aging. Issues like impaired mobility, weakened eyesight, and poor coordination is perhaps unavoidable in some cases. However, knowing you are at risk of falls is half the battle won. There is plenty that one can do to safeguard elders and prevent falls.

Falls in elderly

Myth # 3

Staying sedentary prevents falling.

Falling is majorly caused by a lack of proper support at home and heightened mobility issues. Staying sedentary does not prevent falls; in fact, it can have the opposite effect. Lack of movement can cause muscles to lose strength and joints to stiffen, making it riskier for you when you do get up to move around. Staying sedentary can also cause (or worsen) mobility issues in older adults.  

Myth # 4

Muscle strength cannot be restored once lost.

Weak muscles and stiff joints can heal with frequent moderate exercises. Why mobility is important as you age for countless reasons. And it staves off mobility issues as long as possible. Staying active and ensuring a healthy level of low-impact exercise can help your muscles and joints regain their strength.

Myth # 5

Using a cane or a walker will protect me from falling

Walking devices indeed provide support to older adults with mobility issues. However, one must use canes, walkers and other walking devices safely. Some walking devices may be too heavy, not sturdy enough or too tall, leading to tripping and falling down. When using a cane or a walker, it is vital to ensure that it is the right size, easy to handle, and withstands your weight. 

Cane to protect falls in elderly

Myth # 6

Annual eye check-ups are not required.

An older person tripping and falling down is often related to poor vision. Impaired vision directly affects hand-eye and leg-eye coordination. It can make you misjudge your steps or your reach and can lead to nasty falls. Getting regular eye check-ups and wearing corrective lenses, if required, goes a long way in preventing falls.

Myth # 7

I might hurt my parents’ feelings if I talk to them about falling.

Some older adults can be sensitive to discussing aging and age-related issues. However, avoiding talking about something that can be dangerous doesn’t help. In fact, a lack of timely intervention can put your parents in more danger. No matter how sensitive the subject might be, it is always advisable to discuss risks and concerns openly to ensure the safety of your loved ones.

Prevention Is Key: Things to Prevent Falls In Elders

Falls are easily prevented with the right preparation and support. Listed below are a few ways to avoid tripping and falling among older adults.

1. Staying Active

Perhaps the best and most effective way to prevent falls is to stay active as you age. Getting enough exercise daily keeps your bones, muscles and joints strong. It also helps to stave off mobility issues for as long as possible. Staying active also keeps the mind sharp, allowing you to feel fresh and alert as you age.

2. Bed Step Stools 

Mobility issues or not, bed step stools are a convenient piece of equipment to have at home for the elderly. They offer older adults additional support while getting in and out of bed, thus preventing falls. Good quality bed step stools come with reinforced steel and can withstand between 200 to 800 pounds, making them highly reliable. Bed step stools with handrails and adjustable height, like the Step2Bed, are always an excellent option to consider.

Read more: How to select a senior-friendly bed step stool

3. Bath Step Stools

Getting in and out of the bathtub can also be a huge challenge for seniors. Lifting the leg high up and putting it over the edge of the tub becomes a lot more difficult as you age. Furthermore, the bathroom is often wet leading to older adults slipping and falling. Bath step stools are a great help in situations like these. They can provide a safe and reliable way to get in and out of the bathtub. 

4. Bathroom Grab Bars

A bathroom is a risky place for older adults. Apart from the tub, the shower, sink and toilet areas are also slip-prone areas. Installing bathroom grab bars near the bathtub, toilet and shower can give you additional support and help in preventing falls. 

5. Handrails

In homes that have stairs, handrails are an absolute must. Installed at the right height, handrails help maintain balance while climbing up and down the stairs.

6. Medication

Certain medications can cause dizzy spells, light-headedness and vertigo. A sudden episode of any of these can disorient you and cause you to lose your balance momentarily. This is exceptionally dangerous as it directly leads to falls. Make sure to report any of these symptoms to your doctor and ask for an alternative medication that does not cause any side effects. 

7. Eye Check-ups 

Do not neglect regular eye check-ups, and ensure you always wear the right corrective lenses for the best possible visibility. Impaired vision directly affects coordination and can lead to falls. 

Falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults, which has made them a serious health concern. However, falls are easy to prevent with a little bit of planning and preparation as you age. Be empowered to arm yourself with the knowledge, support and equipment needed to keep you safe at home as you age in place.

 

FAQs

What are the most serious consequences of a fall in the elderly?

The most severe consequences of falls in the elderly are:

  • Broken bones
  • Head injuries
  • Falling again
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Financial strain
  • Death

What are the potential consequences of fractures caused by a fall in an older person?

The rate at which bone mass heals slows down as you age. Thus, fractures in older adults take a long time to heal.  Fractures in the elderly can restrict mobility, cause a lot of pain, and lead to falling again. Some injuries also call for surgical intervention. In addition, fractures that require surgical intervention also run the risk of infections, leading to death in extreme cases.  

What happens when an elderly person falls?

When an elderly person falls, the results can be anything from mild to severe. The most common consequences of falling are injuries and anxiety. Most older adults who fall are likely to fall again. Therefore, the fear of falling again can be crippling and cause additional mental and emotional stress among older adults.  

What causes falling and stumbling in older people?

The following are the leading causes of tripping and falling in older adults:

  • Mobility issues
  • Impaired vision
  • Dizzy spells from medication
  • Lack of proper support at home

How long does it take for an elderly person to recover from a fall? 

Recovery time for seniors who fall depends from person to person. It can be anything from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the severity of the injury suffered by the person. However, older adults take longer to recover from falls than younger people due to weaker systems and a slower cell regeneration rate.

Vince Baiera

Vince Baiera is the founder of step2health, a mobility aids and wellness company for older adults. He is a former ICU Nurse of the Cleveland Clinic and Duke University Hospital in the Cardiac ICU. With years of working on the frontlines, Vince noticed the struggles of older adults and people with mobility issues that became an impediment for both patients and their caretakers. He then designed and created the patented product, Step2Bed (and its variants) that helps seniors and those with mobility issues safely get in and out of bed. His philosophy concerning aging is to plan ahead and start with simple home and life modifications to avoid being overwhelmed at retirement.

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