Falls Prevention Awareness Day is observed on the 22nd of September and is a health campaign that seeks to increase awareness about the prevention of falls and injuries, especially among the elderly. Whereas anyone can have a fall, older adults are significantly more likely to experience one: around 1 in 3 people over 65 and half of individuals over 80 have at least one fall a year.
Impact of Falls on the Elderly’s Health
Physical consequences caused by falls often involve hip or forearm fractures or injuries, causing significant pain and discomfort to the impacted individual. These injuries can result in an unsteady walking pattern, and even difficulty or inability to move around independently, especially for long periods of time. This can cause further health problems as prolonged immobility often leads to other undesirable medical conditions.
Changes to Social Life
The social life changes that sometimes occur after a fall can be quite distressing. If significant injury has occurred, constant assistance or even long-term hospitalisation might be required, which means the affected individual loses their independence, and their daily routine sustains many changes. Unfortunately, this often times means they lose their social contacts, and their overall quality of life is significantly decreased.
Mental Health Consequences
Experiencing a fall can also be emotionally distressing as it can cause fear of falling again and thus attempting to avoid physical movement altogether. Frustration, embarrassment, and loss of self-esteem can all appear as a result of losing one’s personal independence and ability to carry out day-to-day activities on their own, which in turn can lead to feelings of anxiety and uncertainty in life.
Connection Between Hearing Loss and Risk of Falling
Did you know that hearing loss significantly increases your possibility of suffering an accidental fall? Even a mild degree of hearing impairment triples the risk, which increases by 140 percent for every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss.
This is due to the fact that our balance and hearing systems are directly connected in the ear as they share a common nerve pathway to the brain. Our balance system (also called the vestibular system) helps us walk and move without falling, orient ourselves in space, and navigate our environment. Although there is a division between the two systems, when an issue occurs with our hearing, it can also very easily affect our balance, too.
Hearing loss is an issue which widely affects the elderly and leaving it untreated puts them at an even higher risk of suffering a fall.
Actions That Reduce the Possibility of Falling
One of the most important things to be remembered about falls is that they are preventable. There are some simple steps you can take which can reduce your risk of suffering a fall:
Make Your Home Safer
As the home is one of the most common places where accidental falls occur, taking all possible steps to make it as safe as possible goes a long way when it comes to falls prevention.
Removing slippery floor rugs can be a good idea, as well as taping cords and wires to the wall so as to not trip over them. It is also helpful to minimise furniture clutter and keep all spaces within the home well-lit at all times. Last but not least, installing grab bars in the bathroom is another great prevention step as the shower can be an especially high-risk area.
In addition to increasing your strength, physical activity increases your overall quality of life and can lower your chances of falling. It is a good idea to consult your physician as to what types of activity would be most suitable for you and to have a routine that includes your favourite ways of moving your body. Strength, balance, and flexibility exercises are the ones most effective in reducing the possibility of a fall.
Have Your Hearing Checked Regularly
Nearly 42% of people over 50 years of age suffer from a level of hearing loss, with the number increasing to 71% for individuals aged 70 and above.
As we established already, untreated hearing loss can increase your chances of falling, so having hearing checks performed on a regular basis is a great prevention measure. This will allow you to access adequate treatment in case hearing loss is indeed present so that the issue doesn’t affect your quality of life and create a higher risk of accidents occurring.