Preventing Falls Among the Elderly

As people grow older, the can feel the toll of their age on their bodies. Certain tasks that they used to complete with ease can take longer time to finish. Additional efforts must also be put into their movements if they are to achieve the same results they got ten or twenty years ago. From sleeping to going up the stairs, people may begin having difficulties living a normal life once they reach a certain age. These difficulties could very well be the result of medical conditions that are, in turn, caused by their lifestyles when they where still younger.

Yet, growing old is a natural process. It is a stage of development that should not be feared. Rather, one should prepare for it since old age can still be enjoyed if precautionary measures where taken while the person was still young and relatively strong. Aside from medical conditions that come with old age, another problem that poses a big threat to the well being of the elderly population is falling. For younger people, falling every now and then is not a big problem. In fact others even experience it regularly like people who are actively engaged in sports.

However, in the case of the elderly population falling is a threat since bones grow brittle as people age. Therefore, falling can cause fractures and even death (Cordova, Young, Shije & Heeter, 2004). According to Tinetti (2003), one third of the people with ages 65 years or older fall each year. And in half of these cases, the falls are recurring (Tinetti, 2003). This means that as the world population ages, more and more people are in danger of falling and risk suffering the consequences of such falls. There are a number of factors that contribute to elderly people falling. There are intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

The presence of these factors affects the number of falls that occur. Therefore, it is imperative that both intrinsic and extrinsic factors be reduced, if not eliminated, in order to ensure the welfare of the elderly population. The following pages will be providing some information on the various intrinsic and extrinsic factors as well as the measures that can be taken to reduce them. Intrinsic Factors Age related and psychological factors are some of the intrinsic factors that lead to falling among the elderly. In addition, there are also the increasing numbers of illnesses that people contract as they age.

As people age, their eye-sight and coordination slowly deteriorates. This means that older people have more difficulties when it comes to balancing (Hwang, 1999). Since people with eye-sight problems cannot easily detect obstructions on their path, there are increased chances that they might bump onto something. And since their sense of balance is not so keen anymore, they might not be able to have better footing, thus causing them to fall over. Psychological factors deal with the decreased independence of old people. It is often the case that older people ask more assistance from others in order to complete tasks.

As such, the physical activities that they undertake also decrease resulting to the further deterioration of their coordination and balance. The over-all health condition of the elderly makes it essential to for them to take increased doses of medications. According to Keys and Tress (2004), medications such as hypnotics and anti-depressants are often implicated in falls. Extrinsic Factors The increasing dependency of elderly people implies the need to make necessary adjustments in there immediate environment. The changes that their bodies are going through require a corresponding change in the things that they often use.

The non-conformity to the new demands of their bodies can also contribute to falls among the elderly. For example lighting, since there eyes are no longer as powerful as they used to be, lights must be adjusted to ensure that the elderly can still see enough through there limited vision. Carpets and rugs must also be secured so that people, in general, will not trip and fall over. There is also the case of assistive devices being used by the elderly. If their canes, for example, are not of the right height, they have a harder time walking rather than the opposite.

Incorrectly positioned handles in critical areas such as the bathroom can pose dangers to any person especially those with movement and coordination problems. Prevention Some experts have spoken about the various ways to prevent falls among the elderly. One such way is by making sure that the sense of balance of the elderly improves instead of deteriorates as they grow old. Cubra, Rawcliffe and Rivera (2004) suggest Tai Chi as a means to keep in balance. The movements being used in Tai Chi are not strenuous, making them a suitable form of exercise for the elderly.

Some researches even show that Tai Chi is beneficial to people suffering from arthritis (Cubra, Rawcliffe & Rivera, 2004). In terms of the extrinsic factors, making sure that the immediate environment of the elderly is not a hazard prone area can already help in reducing falls. This can be done by securing mats and rugs to the floor so that they will not have loose sides that can cause people to trip. Handles and railings must be secured as well. They must be able to support the full weight of the users. Most important of all, elderly people must regularly consult with their doctors so that they can be checked.

It has been mentioned above that medications can also cause people to fall. Patients must ask their doctors about the side-effects of the medications they are currently using. This way they can take preventive measures while still under medications such as resting for a specific number of hours before performing any activity to allow the side-effect to pass. People must always be aware that prevention is always better than cure. By exercising simple habits, people can be saved from grave danger and the elderly can enjoy the rest of their lives knowing that they can still plant their foot firmly on the ground.

References: Cordova, K. , Young, C. , Shije, M. , & Heeter, M. (2004). Falls in the Elderly. Health Smart. 13(2), p. 1. Cubra, J. , Rawcliffe, N. , & Rivera, F. (2004). Keeping the Balance. Health Smart. 13(2), p. 3. Hwang, M. Y. (1999). Falling and the Elderly. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 281(20). Keys, P. & Tress, D. (2004). Preventing Falls in the Elderly: The Role of the Pharmacist. Journal of Pharmacy Practice. (17(12), pp. 149-152. Tinetti, M. (2003). Preventing Falls in Elderly Persons. The New England Journal of Medicine. 348(1), pp. 42-49.

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