How To Prevent Falls: 6 Signs of Mobility Issues in the Elderlyby Reading 1 Min
As we get older, we have to come to terms with reduced mobility. While mobility issues may not be apparent at first, they slowly tend to creep up. Seniors are at a higher risk of mobility issues because of impaired vision, loss of bone and muscle mass, reduced flexibility and coordination, and joint issues. These increase the risk of falling among the elderly. Sometimes, an initial fall may be an indicator of a developing mobility problem.
Identifying a mobility issue is paramount in preventing falls in the elderly that may otherwise lead to serious injury or fracture.
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Fall Risk Prevention – 6 Signs to Look Out For
Here are some common warning signs that may indicate your loved one is suffering from a mobility issue and is especially vulnerable to falls and post-fall repercussions:
1. A previous fall, even if it seemed harmless
If your loved one has experienced minor falls in the recent past, this could indicate an underlying mobility issue. More than a few falls or even several instances of tripping and stumbling are a sure sign that there’s more to the problem than just tripping hazards around the house. There are higher chances of an injury in the future if you don’t address this underlying issue. Now is a good time to go to the doctor for a checkup and evaluate their mobility. In the meantime, fall-proof the house by installing grab bars, rails on the staircase, and anti-slip mats in the bathrooms.
2. Osteoporosis (e.g., older women who are postmenopausal are at higher risk)
Those who are more prone to having osteoporosis must be on the lookout for mobility issues. Deteriorating bone density can weaken the body’s skeletal support making it more difficult for seniors to remain upright for long periods and move around. Since postmenopausal women are the most prone to osteoporosis, it’s recommended that they go in for a checkup and incorporate a diet rich in Calcium and Vitamin D.
3. Being slow or unsteady while sitting or standing
Having trouble sitting or standing is a strong indicator of an underlying mobility issue in your loved one. Notice if they reach out for support while performing this simple task or if they seem slow and unsteady. Sitting down and standing up are basic everyday tasks that shouldn’t be a struggle for anyone. That’s why it’s important not to overlook this indicator and take your loved one for an evaluation. The doctor can help diagnose the problem and advise you on any balance and strength exercises they can start doing at their stage.
4. Having trouble with balance
If you notice your loved one having difficulty walking or standing steadily and experiencing balance issues, this could be another indicator of an underlying mobility issue. Balance issues could stem from anything, including vertigo, low blood pressure, impaired vision, joint stiffness, and loss of strength. It’s important to have your loved one undergo a balance test to determine the underlying cause and follow up with the correct treatment. A doctor may also recommend they start using a mobility aid such as a cane or walker and incorporate balance-improving exercises into their daily routine.
5. Avoiding exercise or physical activities they normally enjoy
Exercises and staying active are of utmost importance for the elderly. So, if you find your loved one skipping on their daily walk or even activities that they normally enjoy because they feel exhausted or sore, this may indicate a deeper issue.
6. Experiencing pressure on the knees while climbing stairs
Once you notice your loved one avoiding the stairs or hear them complain of pressure on the knees while climbing up and down, this is an indicator of an underlying issue related to strength, balance, or coordination. There may be something ailing their knees or ankles too. If this is the case, it may be a good time to diagnose the problem and install sturdy stair rails or purchase a mobility aid.
How can seniors prevent or reduce the risk of falls?
Once you detect a mobility issue in your loved one, it’s a good idea to consider various strategies that prevent falls in the elderly. Seniors can cope with mobility problems by adopting fall prevention strategies listed below –
Using mobility aids
If a senior chooses to age in place, it’s a good idea for them to use mobility aids both outside and inside the house. In addition to using canes or walkers, you can install mobility assistance devices in the house. This includes grab bars, stair rails, bed step stools or tub step stools. These make getting in and out of bed or the tub easier and much safer.
How to use mobility aids - watch the below videos
Incorporating exercises to improve strength and balance in their daily routine
Exercising offers a range of benefits for the elderly. Staying active and taking part in activities such as Tai Chi, dancing, or yoga can help with balance and coordination, strengthen muscles and maintain bone health. Even a few simple balance exercises performed every day can help.
Get professional help
Once you detect mobility issues in your loved one, it’s a good idea to think about an action plan on how to prevent falls, which can also involve hiring a professional caregiver. Even if your loved one has chosen to age in place, a caregiver can offer valuable service as well as insights into how to take care of the elderly with specific conditions.
Pro Tip – How to choose the best bed step stool?
As seniors age, dealing with a fall gets harder. It's much better to focus on preventing a fall than recovering from the serious consequences of one. Identifying mobility issues early on and then finding ways by which your loved one can overcome them is the best strategy. Whether it's enrolling them in a muscle strengthening and balance program, getting that cataract surgery done, or simply just fall-proofing the house, it's always a good idea to be proactive about the situation.
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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