What Does & Doesn’t Help Prevent Falls in the Elderly

Falling presents a serious health risk for the elderly. Thirty-three percent of adults over age 65 fall every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For the senior population, falls top the rankings of injury-related death and are the most frequent cause of hospital trauma admission.

There are steps seniors and their caregivers can take to decrease the danger presented by falls.

A recent analysis of 159 separate studies on fall prevention in the elderly sheds some light on what existing research has to say on how to help a senior stay steady on their feet.

What works:

  • Exercise: Seniors who engaged in varied workouts (combining endurance, flexibility, balance, and strength) experienced a 15 percent decrease in their risk for falling. Tai Chi was also a beneficial exercise. The Chinese martial art was linked to a 28 percent decline in risk of falls in the elderly.
  • Having a doctor double-check meds: Programs aimed at weaning older adults off of certain prescriptions that may make them more prone to falling (anti-anxiety meds, sleep-inducers, and anti-depressants), appeared to cut down on their fall risk.
  • Correcting physical problems: Surgeries such as cataract correction and pacemaker implantation effectively decreased falls in seniors suffering from certain eye and heart conditions.
  • A home safety check-up: Having an occupational therapist evaluate and modify a senior’s home slashed their fall rate by 19 percent.

What doesn’t work:

  • Vitamin D supplements: Suggesting supplements didn’t appear to have a statistically significant effect on seniors in general when it comes to fall prevention, though study authors say that those who suffer from a serious vitamin deficiency may benefit from supplementation.
  • Education alone: Educating the elderly on the dangers of falls and how to prevent them didn’t help when nothing else was done to follow-up (i.e. no accompanying exercise program).

Check out the Mobility and Falls section for more information on how to help your loved one stay upright and injury-free.

Foiling Falls: What Works and What Doesn’t originally appeared on AgingCare.com.

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By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor

96 comments

Jenny H.
Past Member 6 months ago

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Susan Miller
Susan Millerabout a year ago

I have practised Tai Chi Chuan for around 20 years and my husband a few years longer. He is also now a teacher. I started later .. because I have chronic pain, due to fibro and many other problems, and my balance at that time was dreadful and didn't feel that I could manage it. I couldn't do the Tai Chi more than 10 mins at a time. I would sit down ever 10 mins. I DID learn though .. slowly .. and found it kept me out of a wheelchair. My balance improved greatly .. and my strength. I was still tired ... but I was safer on my feet.

For anyone who wants to learn Tai Chi Chuan be aware that it isn't all 'airy fairy' .. artistic .. it isn't easy to learn at first as it is so different .. and although Tai Chi is supposed to be 'relaxing' .. it isn't at first as you feel as if you can't remember the form. It is done in a set order... like ABCD etc ...... After helping teach some people over the years, many people said to me ' I can't do this .. I can't remember it ... I am TOO old.' My answer was ... 'Don't worry .. the younger members feel JUST the same it really IS hard for a short while .. and we are all different .. but remembering the moves at first can be so exasperating, but stick with it !!!' Most did 'stick with it' and they found that they were so much stronger and more 'balanced' than before.

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harperabout a year ago

ty

Maggie Welch
Maggie D.about a year ago

I'd love to give Tai Chi a try. It combines many physical and spiritual exercises I think would positively affect many areas of my life.

B Jackson
BJ J.3 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you :)

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener3 years ago

Thanks.

KAREN G.
Karen G.3 years ago

Thank you for sharing

Phillipa W.
Phillipa W.3 years ago

thanks. good advise.

Aine Conghaile
Anne Connolly3 years ago

Tai chi