Expert tips to reduce the risk of falls at home

Expert tips to reduce the risk of falls at home

Fall risk factors may include intrinsic factors such as physical or mental imbalances, impaired vision and hearing, and age-related changes, as well as extrinsic factors such as medications, the individual’s living environment, and improper use of assistive devices. With the help of health care providers, older adults and their caregivers can take an active role in preventing falls by recognizing and treating health-related risk factors.

Stay alert and focused

Maintaining focus is essential in preventing falls in older adults, says Jessica Callender-Rich, MD and medical director of post-acute at the University of Kansas Health System. “As people get older, it becomes more difficult to multitask,” she explains.

Memory loss and other cognitive problems can also increase the risk of falls. “If you think about it, walking and getting the right reflexes if you lose your balance takes a lot of steps,” says Dr. Callender Rich.

Dr. Zwahlen suggests that a person’s caregiver intervene when a loved one is confused or unsteady on their feet. “Providing signs and reminders or even direct assistance can help prevent falls,” she says.

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Medication control

Taking at least four different medications (particularly psychotropic drugs, diuretics, or analgesics) may be a risk factor for falls. Many medications can contribute to the risk of falls, including (but not limited to):

  • Antihistamines such as Benadryl
  • Medications prescribed to treat an overactive bladder
  • Anti-anxiety medications, such as diazepam and lorazepam
  • Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline
  • Prescription sleep medications
  • Narcotics (opioids)

Dr. Zwalin says that taking too much of a particular medication can increase the likelihood of falls.

“It is important that you work with your doctor to review your medication list and stop unnecessary medications or use the lowest effective dose,” she advises. “Ask about medications that may contribute to dizziness or falls.”

Regular evaluations with a healthcare provider

When an older adult visits a doctor’s office, some regular evaluations may be required. In addition to assessing mental status and physical conditions such as balance, stamina, flexibility, and walking speed, the organs of vision, hearing, and gait (if applicable) should be examined and evaluated.

Stay hydrated and maintain a balanced diet

Dr. Zwahlen warns that dehydration can increase the risk of falls, which can cause low blood pressure, as well as dizziness and loss of balance.

Furthermore, specific nutrients included in a balanced diet can be helpful in preventing falls, she says. For example, vitamin B12 maintains sensation in the feet, as well as protects cognitive function. High-quality protein helps maintain muscle mass and overall health. and study in Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation It found that vitamin D, in addition to its bone-strengthening benefits, could play a role in reducing falls in older adults as well.

Keep your physical activity

“Exercise is really important for improving balance,” says Dr. Callender Rich. “The best exercise is a resistance exercise that focuses on the upper legs, hips, and core strength.” She recommends tai chi (which studies show can help improve balance), water aerobics, chair yoga, and strength training with weights.

Dr. Zwalin agrees. “Just be sure to choose a class or participate in a level that is safe for you,” she warns.

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2022-06-02 14:43:41

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