November is Falls Prevention Month.
Every year, one in three seniors will fall. Falls are the number one reason for injury-related death, hospitalization and emergency department visits for older adults in Canada.
Here’s the breakdown on falls for those aged 65 and older, in 2018.
- 5000 deaths
- 95,000 hospitalizations
- 425,000 Emergency Department visits, and
- 28,000 ongoing disabilities
Why Falls Occur
Falls occur for a range of reasons including risk factors related to health. Some medications can increase the risk of falls, as can physical concerns such as peripheral neuropathy, gait and balance impairment, and vision changes.
A history of falls in the past 6-12 months increases the risk as well.
As well, the environment is an issue, and can be held responsible for one third of falls. In fact, over 50% of falls take place inside, and often in your own home. The good news is that falls can be prevented.
Check out this online toolkit from Parachute and Partners for Fall Prevention, which includes reading and video resources.
Reduce Your Risk of Falls
Vulnerability can be hard to admit, especially if you’re worried about how others perceive your abilities or ability to be independent. But actually, being up front about falls can help you preserve independence. Reporting a fall, especially to your doctor, could help you identify personal or environmental risk factors that could be modified to prevent more falls.
Appropriate exercise can help you prevent falls. Use any assistive devices for support, and if you have osteoporosis, consider using hip protectors.
Exercise that helps in fall prevention includes strength and balance (lifting light weights, using resistance bands, Tai Chi and squats), endurance (walking and dancing), and flexibility (Tai Chi, stretching and yoga).
There’s lots of information out there regarding moving in a way that is safe and appropriate for you. You can start with this online toolkit, and if you have any questions or concerns always be sure to reach out to your health professionals.
Check your environment
While your home might seem like your safe haven, it may have overlooked environmental risks for falls. The good news is you can fix many of these.
It’s worth noting that falls in bathrooms and on the stairs are more likely to cause injuries than falls in other locations.
Home modifications can make daily activities easier, enable more independence, and reduce falls and injuries. Some examples include grab bars in bath tubs and showers, higher toilets or raised toilet seats, improved lighting, better handrails, slip-resistant surfacing and more. Getting these modifications right is important. An occupational therapist can support you with a plan that is right for you.
Need more information?
Check with your provincial and community health care services to see what they may offer in the way of home assessments.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation offers some resources:
Your Feet and Footwear
Solid and secure footing is essential for balance.
Foot-related problems may increase the risk of falls in older adults. Recently, there has been more research connecting falls to things like foot pain, week muscle strength, poor range of motion in your ankle, and bunions. If you’re worried about your foot health, you may want to see a podiatrist. Podiatrists specialize in taking care of feet, and will assess, diagnose and treat lower limb problems to improve your ability to move. Possible treatments include removing unhealthy tissue, surgery, changing footwear, or orthotics.
In Canada, you don’t need a referral from your doctor to see a podiatrist. And although they are not covered everywhere, podiatric services may be covered, at least in part, by some provincial health plans or by private insurance.
Shoes can also be a problem, especially if they have a high heel, don’t have a strap, or have little contact with the sole of the foot.
CARP believes the issue of falls for older Canadians is not just a matter of individuals making changes to reduce their falls. If we look at the numbers If we look at those numbers through the lens of COVID-19, Canada has not responded to these premature deaths, injuries and related health care costs, with a proportional effort in awareness and prevention.
The cost is real. Not just to individuals and their families, but to healthcare and the government as well.
Watch this webinar from last year on information on how to prevent falls, as well as information from the experts on what leadership role government and Public Health should be taking to help prevent falls, save lives and health care dollars.