Falls in elderly people are a common occurrence and older adults commonly suffer injuries from falling. And, sometimes these can even lead to serious issues, even death! While everybody of all ages is at risk of falling, elders are much more at the risk and sustaining severe injuries.
Studies have shown that every one in four seniors experience falls in their old age. Did you know that falling is considered to be one of the major causes of death in elderly people? Not only are seniors prone to falling but they are also at high risk of getting serious damage from it.
If you are someone in your old age or if you are someone who is taking care of an elderly, this article will help you understand some root causes of why elderly people fall and it might even help you to prevent it to a certain extent.
Main Risk Factors
The key risk factors of falls in the elderly can be divided into three categories:
Extrinsic factors are environmental hazards that are present in the environment of an elderly person. For example, obstacles on the way, poor lighting, poor or no personal aid equipment, and slippery shoe wares are just a few.
Intrinsic factors are those factors that elders endure due to their age. For instance, age-related deterioration in function, disorders, intake of high dose medication, and visual impairment.
Situational factors are related to the activities and habits of elderly people. Some of the most common situational factors are doing laundry carrying heavy baskets, rushing to the bathroom, talking while walking, and failing to notice the environmental hazard.
It is important to understand that falls can be caused due to more than one reason mentioned above. The cause or risk factors are multifactorial due to the intersection of several factors. Now, let us take a look at various extrinsic, intrinsic and situational factors that can cause falls in elderly people.
Impairment of Vision
As we age, normally, the function of our eye tissues starts decreasing. Studies show that age is the best predictor of visual impairment and blindness. The common causes of visual impairment due to old age are cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, primary open-angle glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.
Untreated visual conditions can lead to increased occurrence of falls in the elderly. Visual impairment makes it difficult for them to detect fall hazards such as steps, thresholds, and puddles. Wearing eyeglasses that help them to have a better vision can be used to avoid such situations.
The majority of Environmental hazards happen in a nearby environment where the elderly live. Environmental factors such as poor lighting and glare from lamps, unfavorable flooring, slippery floor, obstacles such as steps, low-lying furniture, electrical codes, and more. Environmental factors increase the risk of falling independently or by interacting with intrinsic factors.
Deterioration of Physical Health
The aging process reduces the physical fitness of an individual such as endurance, strength, flexibility, and agility. They struggle with keeping a proper balance and are more susceptible to falls. Decreased physical fitness not only makes them prone to falls but also makes it difficult for them to recover from an injury.
Side Effects from Medicines
Intake of various medications in old age can also contribute to falling. There can be various side effects of the medicine the elders consume such as low blood pressure, dizziness, and drowsiness. All these side-effects can be attributed to falling.
Dietary supplements and over-the-top medication have very dangerous side effects which can adversely affect older people in the long run. Reducing the dosage of medication can help to manage the risk factor involved with medication.
Behavioral hazards can be a combination of situational factors and extrinsic factors. These are related to the type of activity the elderly people are engaged in.
Day-to-day household chores demand physical involvement and it can be too much of a task for seniors. Wearing good non-slippery footwear so that they can avoid falling while doing their day-to-day activities can be helpful.
Chronic diseases come under intrinsic factors. Diseases that alter mobility and gait such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, vestibular diseases, hip arthritis, feet problem, and such. All these conditions can contribute to tripping and falling.
Cognitive decline is a natural process of aging, as the brain isn’t as active as it used to be. Our brain stops supporting us like it used to. Memory lapses, lack of mental alertness, confusion, lack of focus and concentration, and poor judgment are some of the symptoms of cognitive decline. Studies have shown that the presence of subjective cognitive decline can considerably be associated with falls among elderly people.
A multidisciplinary approach is required while managing fall in elders as they are much more fragile compared to the younger population. It is a proven fact that a good physical therapy and exercise program can be remarkably beneficial for those who have a history of previous falls. And for people who have trouble coordinating and balancing.