November is National Fall Awareness Month, and according to a report by the Government of Canada, falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians, with 20-30% of seniors experiencing one or more falls yearly.
Falls cause 85% of seniors’ injury-related hospitalizations, 95% of all hip fractures, $2 billion a year in direct healthcare costs, and over one-third of seniors are admitted to long-term care following hospitalization for a fall. The average Canadian senior had to stay in the hospital ten days longer for falls than for any other cause.
The proportion of Canadians aged 65 or older is projected to increase from 17.5% in 2019 to between 21.4% and 29.5% by 2068. Source: Statistics Canada
Our bodies naturally change with age, and these changes affect the way we feel, move, and behave. A fall can have a devastating and lasting impact on a person, resulting in injury, chronic pain and a reduced quality of life. Even without an injury, a fall can cause an older adult to lose confidence and reduce their activities.
The good news is that there are actions you can take to prevent falls.
The most effective steps you can take to prevent a fall include the following:
- Exercise: challenge your balance and build strength.
Low impact is best like walking for about 30 minutes daily or broken into 10-minute increments, cycling, swimming, aquafit, hydrotherapy, yoga or Tai Chi. Dancing or cross-country skiing is also good, depending on your abilities.
The G.L.A:D Canada Program is an 8-week education and exercise program for those with painful knees and hips or osteoarthritis. What is it?
- Get enough sleep.
- Take your time: don’t rush when walking or getting up.
- Balance your body through good nutrition and hydration.
- Get your sight and hearing checked regularly.
- Manage your medications and review them regularly with your pharmacist or doctor, as some may make you prone to dizziness and falling.
For seniors living at home, Promyse Home Care offers regular consultations with a nurse and a pharmacist where you live. We will perform regular medication reviews, remove expired or out-of-date medications for safe disposal, and provide methods to ensure all medications are taken at the correct dose and at the right time every time. If needed, a registered nurse will be available to administer medications.
- Wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes.
- Consider using a cane or other mobility device if needed.
- Maintain proper use of eyeglasses and hearing aids.
The Canadian Association of Optometrists produced a one-pager that describes how changes in an individual’s vision can increase the risk of a fall and outlines several strategies to prevent vision-related falls in older adults. Preventing Vision-related Falls in Seniors
Safety In Your Home
Ensure you have proper lighting in hallways, stairs, walkways, and the bedroom and bathroom. Keep stairs and exterior and walkways free of clutter, ice or snow.
Install handrails along stairs and safety grab bars in the bathroom. Check your home for slipping and tripping hazards, and use non-slip mats or rugs. Ensure regularly used items are within reach.
The Public Health Agency of Canada provides a guide with advice on how to prevent injuries by keeping your home, yourself and your environment as safe as you can. It includes some great checklists for every room to verify and increase the safety of your surroundings and lifestyle and real-life stories that testify to the value of adapting.
While falls are a real risk for seniors, it is essential to remember that falls do not necessarily have to be an inevitable aspect of being older. Arrangements to minimize risks as much as possible is necessary. Remaining aware of potential dangers, risk factors, and vulnerabilities is critical.
Taking steps to attend to the environment and general health can help keep seniors feeling safer and more comfortable within their homes as they continue to live out their lives.