Falls Prevention

Care & Treatment

Falls and fractures are not a normal part of aging. Many falls can be prevented by treating your risks.

Assessment and Treatment of Risks

A thorough assessment can find out your risks. Treatment can decrease them. For example,

  • Untreated heart problems can make a person faint
  • Problems with nerves, joints or feet can make walking hard.
  • New glasses or hearing aids may be needed
  • Treatment of eye problems, like  cataractsglaucoma, or macular degeneration (loss of sight in the center of your visual field) can help prevent falls.
  • People with long-lasting illnesses, like dementia or arthritis need treatment to reduce falls risks.
  • People with osteoporosis or osteopenia (bone loss) need enough vitamin D levels and calcium to avoid further bone loss or medications to help strengthen bones.

Exercises and Training

Exercises and training can improve a person’s balance and strength and improve walking. This all helps to prevent falls. Working with a physical therapist or participating in a special program may be necessary

Research has shown that the following activities are effective for older people at risk of falling:

  • Gait training
  • Balance and coordination exercises. 
  • Resistance and weight training to increase strength
  • Stretching exercises such as Tai Chi, yoga, dance, or similar programs to increase flexibility
  • Cardiovascular, endurance, and fitness training 

All exercise programs need to regularly review a person’s progress. As a person becomes more secure and strong, the exercises need to change so a person becomes stronger. 

Use of Assistive Devices

Sometimes a person needs aids to help them with walking, balance, coordination, reaching for things, or other activities. A physical or occupational therapist can provide information, and training in the use of all types of aids.

Among the most common aids are:

  • canes
  • walkers
  • reachers (to pick up items without bending over)
  • handrails, grab bars, and raised toilet seats in the bathroom

Depending on a person’s abilities, they may need training on how to walk, transfer from a chair to a bed, or other daily activities. 

Medication Changes

Some types of medications can increase the risks of falls and fractures.  A healthcare professional needs to review all a person’s medicines and reduce them as much as possible. Medications may also need change.

You are at an increased risk of a fall if:

  • You take four or more prescription medications
  • You have recently changed the number of medications you take
  • You have recently changed the dosage

Never stop taking medications, or reduce your dose, unless your healthcare provider tells you to do it. Follow directions to avoid problems.

Home Environmental Hazards

An occupational therapist or other qualified person can evaluate your home’s safety. Improvements that can help reduce fall risk include:

  • Using better lighting, such as night lights and lamps within your reach in bed. 
  • Removing loose carpeting and other floor clutter to decrease tripping. 
  • Removing dangerous furniture such as beds at the wrong height, or unstable chairs or tables.
  • Adding grab bars, raised toilet seats, and non-slip bathmats in bathrooms.
  • Adding railings on stairs and in corridors.

Behavioral Therapy

Fear of falling can make people avoid activities such as walking, shopping, or taking part in social activities. Tell your healthcare provider if you are afraid of falling. A training program may be helpful. Fear of falling can be treated.

Education

Education is part of a falls prevention plan. Here are some examples of safety tips that a program could offer:

  • Learn to get up slowly to avoid sudden low blood pressure when standing up.
  • Use products like pressure stockings, grab bars, and handrails.
  • Eat an adequate diet that includes protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and any supplements that are recommended.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Learn how to safely get up after falling.

 

Last Updated January 2023