Falls in the Elderly

Falling is a common condition that increases morbidity and mortality in the elderly.  It is a frequent reason for people to lose their independence and move into nursing homes.  25% of elderly people will die after a broken hip resulting from a fall.

Here are some practical ways to help prevent falls.  

Diet is important.  Adequate nutrition that includes protein and essential vitamins and minerals will help keep muscles strong and nerves intact.  It will also help with balance and coordination. Too many carbohydrates in breads and sweets are filling but add little to what the body needs and contributes to obesity.

Exercise will keep muscles strong as well as help with balance and coordination.  Walking is a great form of exercise, be careful for uneven surfaces if walking outside.  20 minutes a day is recommended. Other forms of exercise include yoga and Tia chi.  These exercises help the brain and muscles adapt wide stances and specific balance postures that help prevent falls.  

Eliminate throw rugs and other items such as ottomans, electric wires that might make a person trip, especially at night.  Pets can be a problem for tripping too.  It is a good idea to have a night light for visual assistance on the way to the bathroom.  

Dehydration will cause dizziness and potentially a fall so drink lots of water.  On the other hand, make sure that you go to the restroom frequently so one is not in a hurry causing another potential for a fall.  

Other things are to make sure shoes fit well and are comfortable, flip flops  and other unstable shoes lead to falls.  Eye glasses need to be appropriate so vision is at its best in order to estimate distance and thereby decrease falls.  

Last but not least is medications.  Medications can cause dizziness, fatigue, loss of balance and confusion, all leading to the potential for a fall.  Be careful when starting a new medication and be sure to tell your health care provider if there are any side effects.