Falls in the elderly: what are the risk factors… and how to avoid them? – Featured

2023-06-09 13:31:40

June 09, 2023

Every year, falls have serious consequences for people over 65. However, many measures can prevent them. Starting with the identification of risk factors.

The risk of falling increases with age. Thus, 30% of people over 65 fall at least once a year. And often the causes are multifactorial.

A troubled walk

With advancing age, walking, an almost automatic activity, can be disturbed by various factors. Thus the joints can be affected by osteoarthritis (knee, hip, etc.) or inflammation (as in the case of gout) which decrease the range of motion and promote falls.

Certain illnesses (the consequences of a stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, etc.) paralyze one or both legs or cause abnormal movements or tremors. Osteoporosis, on the other hand, weakens the bones by making them more porous. The skeleton is weakening.

body changes

As we age, muscle mass decreases and physical abilities may be diminished, thus favoring falls. “Conversely, theobesityresponsible for pain in the feet and heelsa change in the statics of the feet, a slower walk, a decrease in agility increases the risk of falls, ”notes Medicare.

Changes in perception

After 65, the senses are also less efficient. A decrease in visual acuity (AMD, cataracts, etc.) does not always make it possible to avoid obstacles. Just like a decrease in hearing. The vestibular system, in the inner ear, deteriorates with aging, which damages balance. Moreover, “memory diseases and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease lead people to perceive risks less and put themselves in danger (an icy staircase, climbing on an unstable chair)”, notify Medicare.

Taking certain medications

Sedative, neurological, cardiovascular effects… Each of us can be confronted with the undesirable effects of certain drugs. Which can get bigger with age. Indeed, the elimination of certain drugs by the kidneys or by the liver tends to decrease. Thus, the three types of drugs most often involved in falls are those with a psychological aim (antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, sedatives and sleeping pills), drugs that lower blood pressure (hypotensives and diuretics) and antidiabetics.

How to prevent falls?

To reduce this risk, the objective is to give more autonomy to people who are getting older.

  • Fight against malnutrition : certain nutritional deficiencies are partly responsible for physical fragility, numerous dizziness and falls. It is therefore a question of ensuring good daily nutritional intake and in particular protein to limit muscle wasting and the occurrence of sarcopenia;
  • Strengthen motor skills. By practicing regular physical activity. Challenge: preventing the loss of motricity;
  • Re-examine regularly and methodically by the doctor treating the interest of each of the drugs;
  • Reduce sensory disturbances. By discussing with the doctor the need for hearing aids and glasses;
  • Promote the wearing of connected bracelets capable of recording movements and ringing in the event of a fall for the earliest possible intervention by relatives and/or emergency services.
  • Adapt living spaces by attaching (or removing) carpets to the floor to prevent tripping, by freeing up as much space as possible (remove all the wires on the floor) to allow the person to move around, by removing all objects at risk of injury in the event of fall, and promoting sufficient lighting. Optimize the bathroom with grab handles in the shower, near the toilets and a seat to allow the person to sit in front of the sink.

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