Many falls are preventable, but prevention is contingent upon your understanding of the factors placing an individual at risk of falling.
Factors contributing to the risk of falling are internal (physical and medical) as well as external (environmental) factors that could cause an older adult to fall.
Internal Factors – Many older adults experience:
– changes in their muscles and bones, weakness or loss of strength;
– vision changes, such as adjusting to lightness and darkness, sensitivity to glare, and/or decreasing depth perception;
– balance problems, automatic reflexes weakening;
– cardiovascular (heart) difficulties, which can often lead to numbness in the limbs, or loss of blood to the brain, which can cause fainting;
– medications that can affect their judgment and coordination;
– chronic and acute diseases (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, arthritis), which a fall can reveal;
– depression and/or sleep deprivation, making them less alert.
External Factors – An older adult’s environment or circumstances can also increase the likelihood of falling, including:
– clutter, unclear walkways, or lack of support systems, such as railings;
– slippery floor surfaces;
– lack of proper lighting;
Transitioning from another setting (such as their home, independent living apartment, or from the hospital) can also be stressful, especially for those living with dementia, as older adults figure out their new surroundings and daily routines.
Some risk factors considered to have a high association with falls, which are also modifiable, include:
- the fear of falling
- limitations in mobility and undertaking the activities of daily living
- impaired walking patterns (gait)
- impaired balance
- visual impairment
- reduced muscle strength
- poor reaction times
- use of multiple medications specifically benzodiazepines, antidepressants, anti-psychotics and psychoactive medications
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