Modern medicine is making successful strides in controlling many of the diseases that, in past years, caused the deaths of many older Americans. Medication, surgery, and other treatments can now help to control diagnoses of heart disease, diabetes, or cancer, allowing seniors to live years longer. But by living longer, your residents’ health and safety is more likely to be threatened by accidental injury or death from falling. For instance:

  • One in three people age 65+ will fall each year
  • At age 72, a person is at risk of falling once every two years and at age 80, the risk rises to falling once each year
  • Every 11 seconds an older American is treated in the ER for a fall and every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall

What’s Causing Falls Among Seniors?

Preventing senior falls by understanding the environmental and physical threats that impair mobility is vital in caring for your residents.

Environmental factors are a common cause of falls among residents in senior living. It’s easy to envision someone slipping on a wet floor, tripping on a bumpy area rug, or getting tangled in bed linens as they move to get out of bed. But environmental factors are not always the reason behind a resident’s fall. You can help to prevent senior falls by taking into account the physical factors that can also play a major role.

Loss of Strength – Physical changes are going on within seniors’ bodies. Muscles diminish in size, joints and tendons lose flexibility, and bones become less dense. Strength, flexibility, and balance are crucial components of mobility which decline with age.

Poor Vision – Seniors often suffer from visual challenges such as cataracts and glaucoma which can interfere with depth perception, visual acuity, and peripheral vision which can. In turn, affect mobility.

Pre-Exisiting Conditions – Many chronic illnesses can affect a senior’s ability to easily move around on their own. As examples, high blood pressure can cause light headedness when changing position (sitting or standing) too quickly, and arthritis can contribute to muscle weakness which also makes seniors unsteady on their feet.

Medication – Certain prescription medications, including antidepressants, anticonvulsants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, and muscles relaxants can affect a person’s alertness, reflexes, balance, and blood pressure, all of which can impact the resident’s chances of falling. Additionally, when medications for treating multiple conditions are mixed together, it can increase a person’s risk of falling.

Take Action to Prevent and Save

There are ways to minimize the chances of falls occurring and proper ways to respond when they do occur, In order to reduce the possibility of falls occurring, ensure your community is a safe environment by keeping a watchful eye throughout your day to correct common trip hazards: The second involves knowing how to react quickly and appropriately when a fall does happen.

In common areas:

  • smooth down throw rugs and/or adding non-stick backing to throw rugs
  • clean up or reporting spills
  • arrange furniture in common areas to create clear paths

In resident rooms:

  • place frequently used items and call buttons within a resident’s reach
  • turn on adequate lighting and installing night lights
  • tuck bedspreads and blankets under mattresses
  • adjust bed and toilet height appropriately

However, falls may still occasionally occur. When they do, it is important to know how to respond in a quick and appropriate way. If a resident falls in your presence or you encounter a resident who may have fallen, remember to A-C-T:

A- Assess the Situation
C- Calm Yourself and the Resident
T – Take the Lead

ACT to Prevent Senior Falls graphic

Provide regular training for your staff on the essentials of preventing senior falls with SeniorLivingU’s products on Risk Management in Assisted Living course, and our staff in-service on Fall Risk Reduction.