June 1

Elderly Risk For Injury - Reduce Older People Risk Of Falls!

Reduce The Number 1 Risk Of Injury To Elderly - Falling!

Approximately 3 million people suffer at least one domestic accident every year. Fall related injuries are at the top of the accidents list and the elderly population are the top candidates for fall related injuries.

Among those fall related injuries hip fractures and head trauma are frequent (personally I know of a case in which a person lost his life in the show, following a head trauma). 

Most serious injury in the older persons originate from multiple causes, and here we list some of them:

  • Low Physical Fitness. Seniors are less physically active. This failure to engage in even mild exercise on a regular basis results in reduced muscle strength, decreased bone mass, loss of balance, loss of coordination, and reduced flexibility.
  • Impaired Vision.  Eye diseases make it difficult to see obstacles indoors and outdoors. Vision problems can cause a fall related injuries even for a fit senior person. Another cause to vision problems is refusing to wear eyeglasses or any other vision equipment necessary.
  • Other risk factors  are multiple medications and their side effects. Side effects can be drowsiness, dizziness and low blood pressure, which may contribute to an accident. We should not forget that over-the-counter medications can have side effects too.
  • Chronic Diseases. May chronic diseases cause weakness in the hands and legs, poor grip strength, and balance disorders. Medical conditions increase the initial risk of falling and minimizes the ability to respond. Such conditions may also increase recovery time from dangerous situations, like tripping or slipping.
  • Surgical Procedures. Surgeries can leave an elderly or senior person weak, in pain, discomfort, and less mobile than usual and at an increased risk of injury.
  • Environmental Reasons. Most falls in the senior population occur in or around their homes. Contributing factors are poor lighting, clutter, carpets, and slippery floors. Safety equipment must be installed where ever possible to minimize those risks at home.
  • Lifestyle and behaviors. Engaging in dangerous types of activities without taking the necessary safety steps will increase risk factors of injury. For example, raiding a bicycle without wearing protective gear. Failing to modify behaviors in a way that will take in consideration new risks is a serious and contributing factor to fall injury in older persons.

Making the home environment where an elderly person lives safer is simple.
Here we will suggest ways to limit risk factors and steps to put into practice to  avoid the most frequent risks of falling. 

Proofing The Home Against Older Adult Falls And Injuries

The Bathroom

Bathroom for seniors best  setup for seniors.

Bathroom is the No 1 fall risk factor.

As the years go by, you may need to go to the bathroom more and more often, even at night.

The bathroom represents an environment where one is at higher risk of falling, both because of the slipperiness of the floors which are often wet, and because of the limited space. Darkness, associated with poor vision, can also cause disorientation. In fact, over two-thirds of all bathroom accidents involve older people. Bathroom safety is a serious concern for an elderly person living alone and for those who care for the elderly.

Using the correct aids should improve safety and ease of use, both for the end user and for the people who assist him. Relatives, health care providers, nurses and social health workers are also active participants to take into consideration.

For example, the toilet must be suitable for a wheelchair user and to facilitate the getting up and sitting movement. The wash basins should be ergonomic with a concave front edge, which facilitates their use. People with reduced mobility will also need handrails and grab bars to be able to move around safely. It will be advisable to replace the traditional shower with a seated shower, or a conventional bathtub with one that has a door. Lets list those tips one by one:

Tips How To Reduce Falls Risk Factors In The Bathroom And Increase Elderly Security

Install grab bars for older people near the toilet, tub and shower.

Grab bars are number 1 for seniors fall prevention! they allow the elderly or the disabled to keep their balance while sitting on the toilet or getting in and out of the tub or shower. Having a grab rail allows one to maintain one's balance. Remember to install grab bars on the walls near the bathroom fixtures, in the shower, in the tub and wherever you need extra support.

Install a night light in bathrooms for the elderly.

Often, the older adults get disoriented in the dark. Placing a night light in the bathroom ensures they don't bump into the sink, accidentally fall into the tub, or slip from the toilet onto the floor. Use a gentle LED night light that illuminates the bathroom without blinding the user as they transition from dark to light. Consider placing night lights in the hallway as well.

Install emergency call buttons in the bathroom.

Emergency call buttons can be a real lifesaver in case of a serious injury . This type of bathroom safety equipment can also help eliminate accidents, as people are more likely to push a button or pull a cord for assistance than to ask for help before going to the bathroom.

Remove any rugs or bathmats that do not have a non-slip backing, reduce risks.

Normal rugs can slip on tile, linoleum and wood floors. Using non-slip rugs and mats prevent falls,and the risk factors of accidental fall injury is greatly reduced. If you find a bath mat or rug that you particularly like that comes without a non-slip backing, invest in non-slip tape and apply it under the rug. If you have particularly smooth floors, consider other bathroom flooring solutions which are suitable.

Toilet lifts and toilet aids

Install frames, toilet safety handles, high seats, or high toilets for seniors to prevent accidents from occurring when the older adults get on and off the toilet. Raised seats are useful because they allow you to sit without excessively lowering your body, thereby reducing difficulty in getting back up. The armrests and handles of the toilet lifters or frames for the toilets give balance and provide a support to push on.

bathroom top view

Electrical appliances

Keep all electrical appliances out of the bathroom. If electric razors or hairdryers are needed, find a space in the bedroom if possible. Space heaters are not safe in an environment such as the bathroom, they are an increased risk for the elderly.

Aids for the bath and shower.

Seats and grab bars for the bath enable the elderly to get into and out of the tub without the risk of slipping and falling. Consider shower chairs and tub transfer benches with adjustable legs. The bench or safety stool for the bathroom can then be raised or lowered depending on the height of the tub.

Use non-slip accessories.

Place the anti-slip products on the floor and in the tub or shower. In addition to non-slip bath mats and non-slip rugs, place non-slip decals or plastic mats in the bathtub and shower. Anyone can slip and fall in a smooth tub or shower, regardless of age. In addition to placing non-slip bath mats in front of the tub, place them in front of the toilet and in front of the sink to provide extra grip.

Set the water heater to a temperature between 40 and 50 degrees or lower.

Most burns and accidents occur when the water heater temperature is set too high. By lowering the temperature, you save both the elderly and the youngest in your household from a bad burn.

Throw away all old medications and prescriptions.

In fact, it would be best not to store any drugs in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. Heat and steam can affect the storage of medicines. Old prescriptions and medications could also be used accidentally.

Try applying these bathroom remodeling tips for seniors, for an accessible bathroom, and to make sure that an older person you love can spend more quality time in their own home. We hope they will be useful to you. 

The Bedroom As A Multiple Risk Factor Requires Special Care!  

  • Watch out for the state of the carpets. Make sure that the carpets don't have holes and are attached properly to the floors. 
  • Use Bed Rails. They offer support when elderly walk around the room, and provide support when they get out and into the bed. Bed rails prevent falls from bed as older adults turn in their sleep.
  • Use over bed tables. These ensure a good posture when sitting up in bed because they are at a comfortable height.  
  • Make sure the senior person uses a stepping stool during any activity in which he or she can lose their balance. Those which have a handle will help with balance problems. 

Floors

Floors can pose a risk if they have an uneven, too smooth or shiny surface, if they are wet or dirty or covered with wax or worn with wear. Watch out for the carpets too! good ways for injury prevention are:

  • Keep floors dry and non-slippery; avoid polishing floors with wax.
  • Wear suitable shoes with non-slip soles and if possible without laces.
  • Remove objects from the floor and reduce clutter.
  • Avoid unevenness.
  • Remove carpets if they are too thin, have fringes or holes or if they slip on the floor.
  • Remove any electrical wires from the floor.
  • Use the right shoes for balance problems. The elderly targeted footwear are made with enhanced attributes such as great tractionlight, and softer soles, and to fit even when your feet swell.

Corridors

Corridors perform a connecting function between the various rooms of the house; the corridor space must be suitable and allow for easy movement. Even an obstacle, a pathological situation, or a fever can break the daily balance, making you more fragile and sensitive to the unexpected.

  • Do not make paths in the dark, rather ensure good lighting of the premises, perhaps with night lights.
  • Keep corridors clear of obstructions.
  • Avoid electrical wires that could trip you up.
  • If necessary, use a support for cane, crutch etc.

Carpets

Carpets, especially those thin ones placed on a shiny floor, tend to lift, move or roll up easily, increasing the risk factors of someone tripping over them. Fringes can also cause a fall.

  • Do not use rugs with fringes or holes, or those that can which fold or roll up easily.
  • Reinforce the corners of the rugs by applying fabric on the back or a non-slip rubber net.

Fixed Stairs 

Stairs represent a risk when they are excessively steep, slippery, wobbly or deteriorated. Or if they are too high or too narrow or of different levels. If stairs are dark or do not have adequate protection this could also pose a problem, injury prevention can achieved by taking the following steps:

  • Keep the stairs well lit, making sure to place the light switches, clearly visible, both at the beginning and at the end of the ramp.
  • Mount a handrail or railing along the staircase.
  • Glue non-slip strips on the steps.
  • Keep the stairs clear of any objects that may interfere with your passage.
  • Eliminate the mats or rails on the stairs.
  • If necessary, have a stairlift installed (this is a freight elevator that allows you to move the chair from one floor to another).

Ladder

A poorly maintained ladder can certainly cause an accident, but many accidents can be due to carelessness or misuse.

  • Do not climb stairs or stools when you are alone indoors.
  • Do not climb a ladder if you suffer from dizziness, muscle or bone pain, are tired or have vision problems, or if you have taken drugs or alcohol.
  • Do not go up with slippers or high-heeled shoes, sandals and unsuitable clothing (dressing gowns, laces and belts that can get caught or get under your shoes).
  • When climbing, do not carry heavy materials and equipment at the same time: you may have balance problems or difficulties in supporting yourself on the ladder posts.
  • Pay attention to where you position the staircase: doors or windows that are not perfectly blocked, spaces near the void (balconies, landings, etc.), power lines.
  • Never place the ladder on an inclined surface.

FAQ

Does risk of injury increase with age?

One of the most frequently asked questions about the health of older workers is: Does the risk of injury increase with age? Studies have examined the relationship between age and the risk of injury. Most found that age increased the risk of injury, but some injuries have no age-related risk. Regardless of your age, you must be aware of potential risks and take steps to minimize them. Listed below are some of the factors that may increase your risk of injury.

Falls are the leading cause of serious injury among older adults. Falls can be the result of a number of factors, including the severity of impact and resistance of the body to inertial forces. In addition, the viscous and elastic capacity of body tissues plays an important role in the risk of injury. Studies show that falls are common in older adults, and more than one-quarter of these falls result in some type of activity restriction. Falls can result in significant disability, including hip and wrist fractures.

While the risk of musculoskeletal injuries generally decreases as workers get older, the risk of non-musculoskeletal conditions tends to increase with age. These results suggest that the relationship between age and injury risk depends on the demands of the job. Middle-aged workers had higher demands than younger ones, and the risk was greatest among middle-aged workers. Given these findings, preventing serious musculoskeletal injuries will have to consider the age and occupational demands in the future.

What type of traumas are elderly patients at highest risk for?

The most common reasons for loss of mobility in the elderly are low physical activity, obesity, and strength and balance impairment. Many people also suffer from chronic diseases. The most common types of mobility problems in older people are gait disorders and falls.

Some common conditions that impair mobility include multiple sclerosis and arthritis. The causes of falls are many, and they are often related to situational factors. Healthy older people are at greater risk for falls if they are performing activities away from home or when the environment is hazardous, like ice, rain, snow, or a slippery surface. In contrast, people with health problems or functional impairments are more likely to fall while performing routine ambulation and transfer maneuvers within a familiar environment.

Fall-related injuries are a major cause of trauma admissions among older patients. In southern Taiwan, for example, 60% of patients under 65 suffered a fall between 2009 and 2013. The Taiwan Longitudinal Study on Aging found an overall prevalence of 19.5%. The risk of falling increased significantly with age and disability and was highest among people who used a cane or had no glasses. But many elderly people do not report falls because they think they'll get older and lose their independence.

The prevalence of falls has increased with age, and it has been a well-known marker of frailty and mobility impairment. Studies have shown that patients over the age of 75 need more assistance with activities of daily living than those under 65. However, there is no definitive definition of what makes a person prone to falling, and no single factor is responsible for the majority of falls. Further research is needed to identify the risk factors and how they influence the incidence of falls.

In addition to identifying factors that can lead to falls, the US Senate Select Committee on Aging released a report in February 2019. It recommends implementing cross-cutting interventions to reduce the number of falls. These interventions focus on improving education and physical mobility, as well as addressing the environmental hazards that are often associated with falls. For example, if a new medication is approved, state policymakers should monitor post-market surveillance of the drug in order to determine whether there are any adverse sequels.

Another important factor is the environment in the elderly patient's home. The home environment may not have the necessary safety features for the elderly, such as grab bars in the shower. The risk increases when there is no supervision of the elderly's activities or the environment is unfamiliar. In addition, falling is associated with loss of consciousness, which can lead to syncope. If the patient is unable to keep their balance, it can result in death.

In addition to falls, other types of fractures are particularly common in older patients. Approximately half of all falls in older persons result in injury. The rate of fractures in seniors is more than 80 per 1,000 individuals annually for women and 100 for men. Of those, 40 percent result in a broken bone. This is an epidemic that requires regular surveying. The prevention of falls is possible through identifying risk factors and developing individualized fall risk assessments.

What injury are elderly patients at the highest risk for in the home? Elderly patients can suffer from falls because of disuse atrophy in their muscles. In addition, patients with cardiac conditions or who are under the influence of alcohol, are especially susceptible to delirium tremens. This condition can be difficult to treat, and ablation therapy may be necessary. In some cases, however, the procedure is not as difficult as it sounds and may even result in a cure.

Why are elderly at greater risk of injuries from falling?

Falls are the most common unintentional injury among older people in the United States. They are costly, affect the quality of life, and limit independence. One in three older people has fallen in the past year. One in three of those who fall will sustain an injury, including hip fractures. A fall can result in lengthy hospital stays and long-term effects. It is essential to get a checkup after a fall.

Injuries caused by falls result in a variety of physical and psychological problems. Many are related to the severity of impact, the body's ability to absorb energy, the elastic capacity of the tissue, and the viscous tolerability of body organs. Older people are particularly susceptible to injuries due to falls, and their bone mineral density decreases by about 1 percent per year after age 50.

Other contributing factors include physical weakness, joint integrity, and cognitive decline. Aging and falling are associated with decreased physical strength, limiting people's ability to respond to hazardous situations. People with peripheral neuropathy, for instance, experience numbness in their feet and feel unsafe on their own. These factors make falls a severe health problem. A third of all nursing home admissions are due to falls.

In addition to age, lifestyle and behavior play a significant role in fall risk. For example, a senior may have difficulty carrying heavy laundry baskets and lack secure footwear. Additionally, a senior's physical strength may not be adequate to navigate stairs safely. If they are afraid of falling, he or they may limit activities. The fear of falling will result in reduced physical strength and condition.

What are major risk factors for falls within the elderly population?

Physiological changes and disease, as well as environmental hazards, all contribute to falls in older adults. In addition to the normal aging process, chronic conditions can also increase the risk of falling because they affect the ability to respond to hazards. Peripheral neuropathy, for example, causes numbness in the feet and makes older people feel unsafe. Even though the causes of fall-related injuries vary by patient, some of them can be managed or avoided.
Public education is a critical element to fall prevention. By educating patients and the general public about fall-related conditions, we can reduce the perceived risk and help prevent falls. We should also use the health care system and a variety of media to promote safe practices. Behavioral changes may be all that is required to address some hazards. For example, senior citizens who are unable to walk or carry heavy objects may find it difficult to carry laundry baskets and should wear secure footwear. Additionally, they may have difficulty navigating stairs safely.

For elderly people with gait impairment, environmental factors can act as major obstacles to mobility. In such cases, certain tasks may be more challenging than they can handle, and this could result in a fall.

Many older individuals take numerous prescription drugs. These medications may have side effects and contribute to the accident. The most common fall-related medications include sedatives, antipsychotics, and opioids. Almost one-third of the elderly population is on at least five prescription medications. Furthermore, dietary supplements and alcohol can have powerful side effects. In addition to these factors, falls can be caused by many other situations, including falling.

These findings indicate that there are several major risk factors for falling in the elderly population. Age and gender were associated with an increased risk of falls in the elderly population. The study's participants' vision quality, cognitive status, and urinary incontinence are associated with a higher risk of falling. Additionally, falls in older people are more likely to occur in those with depressive symptoms, urinary incontinence, and urinary incontinence.

The costs of fall injuries are immense. Each year, the medical costs associated with falls are about $60 billion, a substantial number. In fact, seventy-five percent of fall injuries are financed through government programs. So, what can we do to prevent these tragedies from happening?