Did you know that, after heart disease and cancer, accidents are the third leading cause of death for people 65 years of age and older in Canada? Accidents in that age group are very common and falls in particular are responsible for the highest number of deaths.The older the person, the greater his/her chance of falling and dying as a result of the fall. Although one-third of the people in this age group fall at least once per year, women fall twice as often as men. 95% of falls happen during the day, most often in the kitchen, living room or bathroom or on the stairs.
Factors that cause falls
Four sets of factors should be taken into account when looking at falls in the elderly population:1. Ageing affects your balance and the way you walk. Your steps are shorter and reflexes slower. Your vision is less good; seniors sometimes have difficulty judging the depth and distance of objects. Hearing is also affected which can prevent the person from hearing warnings of danger.2. Illnesses such as arthritis, incontinence, Alzheimer’s and physical problems such as faints and dizziness may be important factors in a fall.3. Environment includes everything that can be found in a household that may contribute to falls (i.e., water on the floor) or prevent falls (i.e., railings in the bathroom).4. Other factors to consider are a recent move (new environment), clothing that is too big, taking certain types of medication and a person’s refusal to accept any limitations.In addition, falls are more dangerous in seniors because they may suffer from osteoporosis (which causes bones to break easily), their healing process is longer and they are more likely to have pre-existing conditions. The most frequent physical injuries are pain, bruises, cuts, hip, wrist or arm fractures or a combination of cuts and fractures. Unfortunately, seniors often fall for reasons that could have been avoided.
If you are in the age group more at risk for falls (65 years and older) or you simply want to make your house safer, here are a few suggestions:
If you are 65 years or older and you are not able to buy equipment you need, you may get it free of charge from the Red Cross when prescribed by your doctor, physiotherapist or occupational therapist. The waiting lists are long and you may have to rent the equipment in the meantime. Certain health insurance policies cover this type of need. Don’t forget, there are always ways to prevent a fall!