The risk factors for falls among the elderly can be classified into either personal factors or environmental factors. As one ages, some muscles in the body may weaken that cause problems with balance. Balance can also be affected by medicines that you take, the amount of sleep that you get, and other medical problems. Some personal factors include: deteriorated health, mobility and strength; impaired balance and coordination; impaired cognition; medical conditions that affect vision, muscle strength and reflexes, such as Parkinson’s disease, osteoporosis, cataracts, glaucoma, etc; medications that can cause unsteadiness and/or affect balance, vision and alertness, such as sedatives, blood pressure drugs; lack of physical activity, poor muscle tone and strength; fatigue; and inadequate nutrition and diet.
In June last year, the journal “Age and Ageing” published an Australian study that revealed people suffering from depression are more likely to fall, pointing to a complex relationship of mental health, a sense of balance, and falling. The study recommended that fall prevention strategies targeting older people need to also assess and treat depression.
On the other hand, the main causes of falls for physically healthy older persons are environmental factors that include: uneven, loose and slippery surfaces; unsecured carpets or rugs; loose cords and wires; inadequate lighting; poor step and stairway design; chairs and beds that are too high or too low; inappropriate footwear; and inappropriate eyewear.
Fortunately in the Philippines, like in most Asian countries, it is customary for the family elder to be cared for by his children or other relatives. Filipinos live in an extended type of family structure and all members must take advantage of this situation by making sure that the elderly can lower their chances of falling. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.
1. Consult a doctor or a trained healthcare professional. Poor eyesight may lead to falls. It is important to have the eyes checked regularly. Glasses with the wrong prescription and medical conditions like glaucoma or cataracts affect vision and increase the risk of falling. Medical conditions like problems with memory and thinking, Parkinson's disease, arthritis, and blood pressure or heart problems may make you more likely to fall. A past injury may also increase this risk. If a person falls often and do not know why, have a health professional examine him/her and try to find a reason for the falls. Some medications or combination of medications can cause drowsiness and increase the risk of falling. Always consult a doctor before starting on any medications. When in doubt, have a doctor or a pharmacist review the medicines.
2. Engage in regular physical activity. Physical activities and keeping active can make you stronger and lower the chances of falling. Ask the doctor what types of physical activity would be best. Have a plan for regular physical activities that fits one’s interest and abilities. Consider balance and mobility exercises that are most effective at reducing falls risk. Also, exercising in water is gentle on the joints in the body. Joints are the places where two bones meet, such as your knee and your elbow. Water also acts as resistance, strengthening the muscles in the body.
3. Make home safer. The home is the most common place where fall-related injuries occur. To make home safer: remove floor rugs or use a non-slip backing; put coil or extension cords and wires next to the wall so that you don't trip over them; minimize cluttering of furniture; fix loose or uneven steps; install grab bars in the shower or toilet; and ensure that entrances, stairways, and rooms are well lit.
In the Philippines, the population of 60 years or older was 3.7 million in 1995 or 5.4% of the total population. In the 2000 census, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board, this increased to about 4.8 million or almost 6%. At present, there are 7 million senior citizens (6.9% of the total population), 1.3 million of which are indigents. Everyone should create physical and social environments that foster the health and participation of older people.
(Photo grabbed from the Internet)