September is Fall Prevention Month, and Morning Pointe Senior Living is taking the opportunity to share the importance of good balance for seniors.
“Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death for seniors,” said Mandy Taylor, RN and senior vice president of clinical services at Morning Pointe Senior Living. “Falls can dramatically affect quality of life and independence for older adults.”
For example, a fall may result in a broken bone, a head injury, bruises or simply a decreased level of confidence in movement, which can increase the risk of falling.
Each of these outcomes takes a harder toll on senior adults’ bodies, from bone healing to skin integrity.
Katie Grant, doctor of physical therapy, shared that 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls.
“The population is aging, so the number of people falling is increasing,” Grant shared. “There are a number of contributing factors with age. Seniors may lose some of their strength and muscle mass as they are often less active. They may be on more medications, have problems with their vision or be more likely to experience a vitamin D deficiency.”
The good news is that falling is not inevitable. There are several ways older adults (and individuals of any age) can lower their fall risk.
Fall Risk Reduction Tips: What to Do/What to Avoid:
- Ensure your environment is well-lit. Replace burned-out lightbulbs (or have family replace them if they are not an easy reach). Put a lamp next to your bed, or keep a night light to illuminate the way to the bathroom.
- Take your medications as prescribed. Talk to your doctor and/or pharmacist if you feel dizzy. Sometimes medications can affect your balance, and your health care provider may be able to help.
- Have your vision checked regularly. Poor vision can cause missteps or allow you to bump into things more easily.
- Wear stable footwear, such as non-slip shoes. Avoid flip-flops or high heels.
- Check your vitamin D, and talk to your doctor to see if you need to supplement.
- Ensure hand rails are in place on both sides of stairs.
- Make clear paths throughout your house, without clutter or furniture in the way.
- Avoid throw rugs – they are a tripping hazard.
- Take your time rising from your bed or chair. Rising too fast can lead to a drop in blood pressure.
- Be mindful of small animals, such as dogs or cats, while standing or walking.
- Store items you use frequently on easy-to-reach shelves or cupboards.
- Add a grab bar and/or non-slip bath mat to your shower.
- If you have been recommended a specific assistive device (such as a cane, four-wheel walker or front-wheel walker), use the device recommended by your health care provider.
- Maintain an active lifestyle. Moving and exercising improves your balance and strengthens your body, maintaining your muscle mass.
Strength and balance exercises that can be useful for seniors include (but are not limited to) yoga, tai chi, gardening, walking with light weights, or simply doing light squats while holding onto a chair or countertop.
“You can absolutely improve your balance,” said Grant. “You just have to challenge it in a safe environment.”
One great tool for seniors is to get a fall risk assessment by their primary care physician or physical therapist.
“Therapists are here to help get people stronger,” said Grant. “We work on strength in physical therapy, and occupational therapists have an eye for safety. We can encourage patients with a home exercise program to carry over after therapy sessions.”
On-site therapy is one of the tools all Morning Pointe Senior Living communities use in their fall-reduction strategy for residents.
“Therapies can certainly play a role in decreasing fall risk,” said Mandy Taylor. “With the goal of increasing resident independence and wellness, Morning Pointe’s partnership with our onsite therapy services in each of our communities is vital in providing our residents easy access to physical, occupational, and speech therapies.”
Other ways Morning Pointe facilities strive to increase safety and avoid falls include providing grab bars in resident rooms and bathrooms, one-level construction of each building and easy access to staff for assistance.
For the best fall risk strategies for you, please consult with your personal physician. Also, visit cdc.gov/falls/ for more information and statistics about falls and seniors.
Founded in 1997 by Tennessee healthcare entrepreneurs Greg A. Vital and Franklin Farrow, Morning Pointe Senior Living owns and operates 37 senior living, personal care, and Alzheimer’s memory care communities in five southeastern states and is celebrating its silver anniversary in 2022.