Every year, millions of older adults fall, leading to injuries and emergency room visits. Many of these falls and injuries can be prevented. Most falls happen at home. Taking certain safety measures can prevent many falls.
Reducing the risk of falling
As you age, your risk of falling becomes greater. This is because of changes in vision and balance, along with other medical and physical conditions. Most people also lose bone density as they age, so the risk of broken bones from falls is a greater concern. Older adults can take steps to lower the risk of falling. Here are some ideas:
Have your vision and hearing checked regularly. Get your glasses updated when needed. And be sure to wear them.
Know the side effects of medicines you are taking. Some may lead to loss of balance and coordination.
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
Wear rubber-soled and low-heeled shoes that fit correctly and support your feet. Don’t wear loose-fitting slippers that could cause you to trip.
Don't go barefoot inside or outside of your home. Always wear shoes.
Be careful on wet or icy sidewalks.
Exercise daily to stay flexible and keep your bones strong.
Balance and falls in older adults
Having good balance means you’re able to control your body’s position. Many things can cause problems with balance.
Some medicines can cause problems with balance. For example, medicines that lower blood pressure can make you feel dizzy. Talk with your healthcare provider if you notice a balance problem while taking a medicine. They may be able to prescribe a smaller dose or change your medicine. If you are started on a new medicine, ask your provider if it can affect your balance.
A balance disorder can be caused by different conditions. It may be due to a problem of the inner ear. Or it can happen with a stroke, low blood pressure, or head injury. When you have a balance disorder, you may feel unsteady or like you’re moving or spinning.
Common balance disorders when the inner ear is affected include:
Vertigo. This creates the feeling that you or the things around you are spinning.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. This is a condition that makes you have a brief, intense feeling of vertigo when you move your head. This can happen when rolling over in bed or looking up.
Labyrinthitis. This is an infection or inflammation of the inner ear that causes dizziness.
Ménière disease. This is a disorder that causes a person to have vertigo. You may also have hearing loss that comes and goes, a ringing or roaring in your ears, or a feeling of fullness in the ear.
Low blood pressure
Orthostatic hypotension is when blood pressure drops when you sit up after lying down, or when you stand up after sitting. When this happens, less blood goes to organs and muscles. This can increase the risk of falling. Many things are linked to this type of low blood pressure. They include dehydration, anemia, prolonged bed rest, and alcoholism.