Preventing falls is critical

For anyone with aging or elderly parents, fall prevention is one of the most important topics to learn a little about.

Our nation’s public health agency released it’s second Seniors Falls in Canada report this year and a summary of some of the very helpful information follows. First let’s look at some staggering statistics:

Falls are the leading cause of hospital admission for seniors

Falls cause a longer hospital stay than any other ailments/injuries on average – three weeks

Falls are the No. 1 cause of a senior being forced to move into a nursing home

Falls cause 95 per cent of hip fractures in seniors, leading to death in a staggering 20 per cent of all cases!

Each year in B.C. more than 200,000 seniors suffer one or more falls, resulting in 10,000 hospitalizations and more than 800 deaths. As you can see, avoiding falls is of great importance to a senior and their loved ones.

With that stated, let’s look quickly at the main causes, and what can be done about this massive problem.

Main risk factors Biological/Intrinsic: acute illness; balance/gait deficits; chronic conditions/disabilities; cognitive impairments (dementia can increase fall risk two to three times!); low vision; muscle weakness/reduced physical fitness Behavioural: assistive devices not well fitting or maintained; excessive alcohol; fear and/or history of falling; medications (especially mood and sleep meds); inadequate diet Social/Economic: lower socioeconomic status (environment, diet, access to resources, health knowledge); social networks (or lack of)

Main strategies to reduce falls The primary strategies discussed in the report to help seniors reduce falls are:

Use assistive device (e.g. walker) that is properly recommended, fitted and maintained

Chronic and acute disease management

Education – e.g. safe/correct transferring for entering/exiting shower/bath

Home assessment for safety modifications. This can be as simple as a safety walk through (with suggestions) from one of our experts, or as in-depth as renovations from a seniors renovation specialist like Ease-Ability Renovations

Medication review – best to do one to two times per year with the individual’s pharmacist

Nutrition assessment

Vision/hearing assessments

Strengthening and balance training. A great resource for in home fall prevention training and strengthening/balance training is local physiotherapist Heidi Bovey. Call Heidi at 250-701-8876 for info about her home visits. She’s terrific.

We’ve noticed with our clients that focusing on the above strategies absolutely reduces risk of falls, with particular attention to the medication review, and strengthening/balance training.

If you have any questions about other resources in the community, drop me a line.

Chris Wilkinson is the owner/GM for Nurse Next Door Home Care Services for Cowichan and central Vancouver Island. For questions or a free inhome caring consult call 250-748-4357, or email Cowichan@NurseNextDoor.com

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