With age comes wisdom but at the same time – physical changes. The ageing process can take toll on the different body systems and organs. While some of these changes are obvious, others are simply more subtle. Ageing can cause the bone to lose its density through the process of bone absorption. This gradual change in the bone composition can increase the risk of long term injuries, especially after falls.
Ageing and falls
Falls are all too frequent among seniors and are the most common causes of serious injuries and hospital admissions due to trauma. Studies show that one in three persons over 65 years suffer from a fall every year. Of these, around 30 percent suffer moderate to severe injuries that can make their lives difficult and even shorten their life expectancy. Every year, the healthcare industry spends millions for treating non-fatal fall injuries among seniors.
Fractures: The leading consequence of fall
For older people, fractures are the most common serious consequences of falls. As mentioned above, the bones constantly change through a process of “ remodelling”, which results in loss of bone tissue and mass. The loss of minerals in the bones makes it more fragile.
Some parts of the body that are most vulnerable to fractures after a fall include the hip area, arms and hand, and leg and ankle bones. Among these common bone fractures, hip fractures are attributed to more serious health problems as well as greater number of fatalities.
Seniors who have broken their hips often require hospital admission that may last for about 2 weeks. Moreover, around half of seniors hospitalized due to hip fracture will have some difficulties returning home and living independently.
Individuals that care for seniors, at the bare minimum, should enrol in first aid training through credible providers to ensure they can provide assistance to seniors during emergencies.
There are a number of factors that can increase the risk of falls among older people. These factors include:
- visual changes or impairment (e.g. cataracts, myopia or presbyopia);
- problems with the nervous system (e.g. sciatica);
- muscle and joint problems (e.g. arthritic conditions);
- problems with balance and gait (e.g. Parkinson’s disease or post-stroke); and
- taking medications that can cause sleep or disorders with balance.
Environmental hazards can also contribute in the incidence of fall. Some of the common environmental hazards include:
- uneven or slipper floor surfaces;
- tripping obstacles that include loose steps, rugs and mats, and pets;
- poor lighting;
- objects scattered on the steps or floor; and
- unstable furniture.
Majority of fatal falls among seniors occur in the home. However, it can also occur in public spaces such as in cinemas, malls, shopping center as well as in health care institutions.
While falls are very common among seniors, there are things you can do to prevent fatal injuries. Here are some tips on how falls can be prevented:
- Regular physical exercise to improve mobility, flexibility and strength;
- Avoiding use of medication that can affect consciousness;
- Taking medications for underlying medical conditions; and
- Modifying the environment such as removing potential tripping obstacles, installing anti-skid tape on floor and grab bars and ensuring adequate.
To learn more about recognizing emergencies and providing first aid to individuals that are victims of falls enrol in workplace approved first aid courses (enrol here).