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8 tips for seniors to prevent falls

Feb 23, 2024 By Dominique Astorino

Clinical Editor: Megan Dodson, PA-C

By the year 2050, one in every six people — worldwide — will be aged 65 years or over (this is more than double the current number).

Each year 35 to 45% of adults over the age of 65 will report a fall, while 50% of adults over the age of 80 will report a fall. And 1 in 10 of those falls results in serious injury, says One Medical’s Danielle Newman, MD.

She emphasizes that “Falls are not a normal part of aging - they can be prevented!” So, don’t accept this as a part of your post-65 life. Here’s what you need to know.

Common causes of falls for seniors

Age-related changes like muscle loss, dizziness and balance issues, joint problems, and worsening vision, memory and cognition can all contribute to fall risk.

The fear of falling doesn’t help either. “That anxiety and fear of falling can lead to avoidance, isolation, deconditioning, and actually increase the risk of falling,” says One Medical Seniors Behavioral Health Training Lead Sarah Stookey, PhD. “This can even become a larger issue after experiencing a fall.”

Risks of falling for seniors

As mentioned, about 10% of falls in the over-65 age group result in a serious injury. Due to physiological, age-related changes (like bone weakening, for example), falling down is a bit riskier and more serious for older adults. Of 36 million falls in 2018, there were three million emergency department visits and 32,000 deaths, says Newman. It’s also incredibly expensive, as she points out. On average, fall treatment costs upwards of $10,000 per fall.

Fall prevention tips

“As we age, our bodies may not be as strong or as balanced as they once were, making falls more likely,” says One Medical provider, Alexander Kazberouk, MD. “However, there are several things that you can do to reduce your risk of falling.” Here are a few steps you can take to prevent falls and protect your health:

1. Schedule a visit with your primary care provider

Make an appointment with your primary care team to identify your personal risk factors,

assess age-related physical changes, and evaluate your gait, strength, and balance. Your primary care provider can help you identify any hazards that may be in your home environment and suggest tips to help reduce your risk.

2. Discuss your medications.

“Talk to your primary care provider about any medications or supplements that increase the risk of falling,” says Kazberouk. “These include sleep aids, pain medications, and many others.” Newman adds that changing medication comes with its own risk, too. “High risk periods are the days to weeks after starting a new medication or changing dose on existing medication,” she says.

3. Identify hazards.

Falls are often due to hazards that are easy to overlook but easy to fix,” says Kazberouk. “Take a look at this check-list from the CDC to identify and fix hazards, such as poor lighting and loose carpets.”

4. Adjust how you get up.

This one is simple but can take time to implement and make it ‘autopilot’: “Get up slowly from lying and sitting down,” says Kazerbouk. Getting up too quickly can cause dizziness and lead to falls.

5. Exercise intentionally.

“Exercise is the most effective method for decreasing falls,” says Newman.

“Exercise also helps you feel better and more confident,” says Kazerbouk. And, there are specific types of exercises you can do to specifically prevent falls. “Do exercises that improve your balance and make your legs stronger. You can learn them from working with a physical therapist, group exercises classes, tai-chi classes, or other fall risk prevention classes.”

Make it part of your daily routine. “Making changes to your daily routine can be challenging, but the benefits of preventing falls are worth it,” Kazerbouk adds. “By taking steps to improve your strength, balance, and overall health, you can stay active and independent for years to come.”

Additionally, Kazerbouk suggests you “Engage in a community fall prevention exercise program. The National Council on Aging has a search engine that can help you find a program near you.”

6. Wear shoes.

Yes all the time! The extra grip and support can help you stay upright and prevent trips and falls. “Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers,” says Kazerbouk. “Make sure your footwear is comfortable, form-fitting, low and broad in the heel, without laces, and not smooth on the bottom.”

7. Brighten up your space.

How’s the lighting in your living space? Could your home stand to have a little more illumination? “Put in brighter light bulbs,” suggests Kazerbouk. “Fluorescent bulbs are bright and cost less to use.”

8. Prep an emergency gameplan.

There are a few things you can do to be proactive about a future fall, should one happen. Here’s what our team suggests:

  • Keep emergency numbers in large print near each phone.
  • Put a phone near the floor in case you fall and can’t get up.
  • Consider wearing an alarm device or a safety bracelet, button, or necklace that will bring help in case you fall and can’t get up.

“In terms of devices, I recommend something with ‘fall detection,’” says Stookey. “There are devices that are monitored by a company (and have a fee). Some wearables like smart watches can be set up for fall detection — they will reach out to emergency services in your area, as well as any emergency contacts identified in your device.”

9. Use the right assistance mobility device.

Stookey adds that if you’re using any kind of assistive devices for mobility, such as walkers or canes, “Make sure that they are properly adjusted to the correct height,” and that you are in fact using the correct type of device(s) for your needs.

Have more questions about your health this winter? Get started with One Medical Seniors, a primary care, value-based care practice that puts you and your health first. Learn more here.

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Dominique Astorino

The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, a national, modern primary care practice pairing 24/7 virtual care services with inviting and convenient in-person care at over 100 locations across the U.S. One Medical is on a mission to transform health care for all through a human-centered, technology-powered approach to caring for people at every stage of life.

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