A fall risk assessment can play a key role in preventing falls among seniors with certain health conditions. Each year, more than 2.5 million older adults suffer fall injuries that require a trip to the hospital, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Knowing the risks your senior faces can help prevent many of these falls.
The symptoms and complications of some health conditions in particular can lead to an increased fall risk for seniors. These diseases affect millions of seniors each year, and it is important for caregivers of older adults to understand that a diagnosis might mean that they’ll need to put more focus on fall prevention.
These conditions include:
- Heart failure and other cardiac problems, which may lead to balance issues because of dizziness and fatigue. Endurance can also decline, so problems may occur with only a little exertion.
- Low blood pressure, known as hypotension, may cause extreme dizziness or fainting. This most commonly occurs when a senior is standing up after sitting or lying down.
- Diabetes is linked to circulation issues, which can cause a loss of feeling in the feet and legs. This condition, known as diabetic neuropathy, can lead to falls by making it more difficult to maintain balance and navigate around obstacles.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, better known as COPD, refers to chronic bronchitis or emphysema. It causes shortness of breath that can make the sufferer feel dizzy and weak, even with little exertion.
- Arthritis causes a loss of flexibility in the joints. This can make it difficult for seniors to maintain their balance, as well as to navigate around obstacles. It may also affect their gait, which can cause trip hazards.
- Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can lead to confusion, poor judgment, and perception issues. Seniors with dementia and other cognitive impairments also often have poor balance and physical conditioning, both of which can contribute to increasing their fall risk.
- Parkinson’s disease leads to tremors, slowed movement, and a limited range of motion. This, when paired with the shuffling gait and stooped posture typical of those with the condition, may lead to frequent falls as the disease progresses.
- Renal failure and other kidney issues can cause peripheral neuropathy. This pain and numbness often leads to falls because afflicted seniors may have difficulty sensing uneven ground or avoiding items that could cause them to trip.
- Glaucoma often begins slowly, robbing seniors of their peripheral vision unnoticed. As the disease progresses, tunnel vision develops, making it difficult to see obstacles or uneven ground. This can make it hard for seniors to navigate through their home, and it can be especially dangerous in unfamiliar places.
- Cataracts cause a decrease in vision that can make it more difficult for seniors to judge distances or see obstacles along their path. Cataracts may make it especially hard to see in low light.
While fall-proofing your home or your aging loved one’s home is a good idea at anytime, some health conditions may still lead to falls. It’s important to talk to your loved one’s doctor about his fall risk, and have him evaluated regularly. A fall risk assessment may be key in preventing falls or lessening their impact due to one of these diseases.