The elderly are much more prone to slips and tumbles. Most falls are caused by age-related health issues, sudden dizziness and the side effects of medication. Falls don't just mean injuries and pain – they also have a psychological impact. After a fall, people can become nervous and lose confidence. The risk of a fall can be reduced by making changes in the home, using walking aids and making changes in lifestyle. Physical condition is also a significant factor: regular strength and balance exercises can reduce the likelihood of falling in the first place.
Our mobility and sense of balance deteriorate as we become older. It's completely normal and shouldn't be a reason for older people to give up living independently. Nevertheless, a fall can easily occur in old age. A minor lack of concentration or one wrong move is enough to make you lose your balance. Every year around one in three people aged 65 or over suffer a fall. Some 20% of falls result in mild or serious injury.
The most frequent causes of a fall are an irregular heartbeat, fluctuations in blood pressure, balance problems, muscle weakness and the side-effects of medication. If a parent or a person in their care suffers a fall, it is advisable to have a medical examination.
It's obviously desirable for the person involved to be able to continue living at home for as long as possible after a fall. What matters now is for them to get their self-confidence back. Have a chat about the situation and take preventative measures. Get the doctor to check their medication. Find out whether the use of walking aids or switching from a walking stick to a walker is necessary. Visual aids are another important subject. A lot of older people fall because their spectacles are no longer right for their eyesight. Talk to the person involved about their eating habits. Do they drink enough? Do they eat healthily?
Systematically inspect their home with them and identify potential hazards. These might include badly placed furniture and interior accessories, loose carpets and runners, slippery floor surfaces, difficult-to-reach light switches, loose electrical cables, poorly lit corridors and stairs, and other sources of danger. Special attention needs to be paid to the bathroom and kitchen, where fittings must take account of the greater safety requirements of older people.
Fall prevention can and should start with lifestyles too. Strength and balance training appropriate to a person's individual state of health and physical capacity strengthens muscles, improves mobility and boosts self-confidence. Sensible shoes and comfortable clothing that is easy to put on and take off also help lessen the risk of a fall.
For useful information and comprehensive checklists on preventing a fall in old age, please visit the website of the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention (bfu).
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