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Avoid a trip: How to prevent senior falls

January 20, 2015 | Camila Hernandez
woman and older adult walking

The daily routine of stepping out of the shower may seem simple enough, but for an older adult it can be fraught with hesitation and fear. The bathroom is the most common place for people to lose their balance and fall. And falls can lead to serious, life-changing injuries.

“Some people fall and suffer only minor scrapes and bruises, but many times falls can lead to blunt head trauma or hip fractures,” says Dr. Lisa Gibbs, medical director of the UCI Health Senior Health Services.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in three adults aged 65 and older falls each year. People at a higher risk for falls include those with:

Even if you are healthy, several factors associated with aging — such as cataracts, imbalance and deconditioning — may combine to make older adults more susceptible to falls.

Fall risk evaluations for seniors

Physician Assistant Valerie George sees patients at the SeniorHealth Center, where she evaluates older adults who are at risk for falls.

During the visits, she reviews their list of medications to:

  • Ensure they’re not causing dizziness or changes in balance
  • Checks patients’ blood pressure
  • Checks their strength and balance

Tips for fall-proofing the home

George also talks to her patients and caregivers about the importance of evaluating the risk of falls in their home.

“The bathroom is one of the most common places where seniors fall because they tend to grab on to towel racks or nearby counters that don’t support their weight,” George says.

If you are worried about falling in the bathroom, consider installing grab bars inside and outside the shower so you can get in and out with ease.

Other simple adjustments include:

  • Removing loose rugs or objects
  • Training pets to keep some distance when walking beside you

Both Gibbs and George recommend the use of medical alert systems, particularly for older people who live alone.

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