As we age, it is a well-known fact that our bodies steadily but surely deteriorate. Every year, one in three adults over the age of 65 will experience a trip or fall. So, we must ask ourselves why does this happen so frequently? Trips and falls in the elderly are mainly due to biological reasons that come with ageing such as;
- Poor eyesight
- Poor posture
- Muscle deterioration and weakness
- Chronic conditions and diseases such as stroke, diabetes or Parkinson’s disease
Regardless of the reasons why, the consequences of trips and falls can be very severe, even fatal. Understanding why our elderly citizens fall means we can be better prepared to reduce the risk factors and thus reduce the risk of trips and falls occurring.
Common Household Trip and Fall Culprits
There are multiple areas around the home that can pose a risk to the elderly as a fall hazard. Although most might seem straight forward, it can be increasingly difficult for the elderly to react as quickly as the younger generations. Outlined are the top fall hazards around the home;
- Poor lighting – We utilise lights in the home to better increase our visibility. It prevents us from falling over objects in the darkness. When homes are dark or not properly illuminated, it increases the risks of falling. Couple that with poor eyesight experienced by the elderly and it can be a recipe for a falling disaster.
- Unstable or uneven flooring – When we walk, our feet act as support and balancers for the rest of our body. When we walk on an uneven surface, the receptors in the brain responsible for balance trigger and our reaction is to plant our feet and extend our arms to lower our centre of gravity. As the elderly experience poor posture and are more unbalanced on their feet, their bodies are unable to react as quickly, and they are more likely to fall over on an uneven surface.
- Poor housekeeping and clutter – With busy schedules, it is hard to constantly keep our houses in pristine condition and inevitably, our houses become cluttered. This clutter around the house can become a serious tripping hazard for not only the elderly, but everyone who enters the house.
- Spillages – Whilst we always try to clean up spillages as soon as practical, it cannot always be accomplished, especially if we are unaware that something has been spilt. Liquids such as water, grease or oil can contaminate the floor and make the surface exceptionally slippery. Areas of spillages are high risk areas and it’s important to clean up any spillage straight away. Be sure to pay close attention to higher spillage areas such as in the kitchen or in the bathroom.
Whether you are a relative or caregiver for an elderly citizen, being aware of the potential hazards means you can actively mitigate the risk of falls in the home.
What is April Falls Day?
April Falls Day is a campaign designed to raise awareness about balance, stability and preventing trips and falls for the elderly and those living with disabilities. It is also about gaining awareness for frailty and how it affects those of us who are no longer spring chickens. Celebrated annually on April 1st, April Falls Day is a community-based commitment to improving the lives of individuals living with frailty.
What is Frailty?
Although a common misconception, the term ‘frailty’ doesn’t just mean someone is ageing. Determining if someone is frail takes an analysis of the individuals’ physical, mental and emotional states of being. To be categorised as frail, an individual must satisfy any three of the following criteria at various levels;
- Unintentional or significant weight loss
- Over exhaustion
- Low physical activity
It is important to recognise the signs and actively try to assist those living with frailty. Falls are the most common injury sustained by those living with frailty, therefore prevention of falls is the best plan of action. Active fall prevention strategies include;
- Making access easy to visual aids and/or glasses and mobility aids
- Ensure the individuals’ home environment is safe and trip hazard free
- Showing the individual where they can access help if required
- Assist individuals with daily tasks
For further information about assisting those living with frailty, supporting aids and services available contact ConnectAbility Australia. As specialists in the disability and aged care support sector, ConnectAbility Australia can provide you with the support and training required to ensure the safety and security of your loved ones and reduce the occurrence of trips and falls in their homes.