The risk of a fall is unfortunately increased during the winter season, with icy sidewalks, slippery driveways, and melted snow on floors posing a potentially dangerous hazard. A fall is serious for any person, but for seniors, the results of a fall can be much more severe. Frederick Frost, MD, Department Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic, states that for any person over the age of 80 who falls and breaks a hip, there may only be a 50% chance that the individual will be able to return home ever.
In order to help prevent a dangerous fall, there are four signs that an older adult may be at-risk, according to Barbara Messinger-Rapport, MD, PhD, Director of Geriatric Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. One such sign is rapid weight loss, which could mean loss of muscle and bone mass. An older adult who loses 10% or more of their weight within 6 months may be more at-risk for a fall. Also, vision problems that make it hard for the person to see may lead to a fall.
Medications that impair a person’s judgment, such as pain medications or muscle relaxants, may also contribute to a fall accident. Additionally, a neurodegenerative disease, such as Parkinson’s disease or dementia, may also increase the risk of a fall in older adults. To reduce the risk of falls at home, remove obstacles that may cause a person to slip or trip, including throw rugs and clutter from the stairs, and clear a walking path to help lessen the chance of a fall.
A final tip to prevent seasonal falls for seniors is to watch their alcohol intake. Both Frist and Messinger-Rapport state that if a senior person has suffered a fall within the last year, he or she may have a balance problem and should report it to a physician. Treatment for this type of issue may include physical therapy sessions to improve strength, endurance, balance, as well as confidence.
Source: Cleveland Clinic