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Fall Prevention Strategies for Seniors

Summary: Many people aged 65 and older have a higher risk of suffering a fall. Falls can be dangerous to older adults, so it’s even more important to be diligent about safety. Here, we share what can create an increased fall risk and share some fall prevention strategies to help you stay safe and maintain independence. Estimated Read Time: 7 mins

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Table of Contents:

  1. Common Fall Risks for Seniors
  2. How to Prevent Falls
  3. How to Fall-Proof Your Home
  4. How Medicare Can Help if You’ve Had a Fall
  5. Will Your Medicare Coverage Help Cover Costs Related to Falls?

It is often said that falls are just a normal part of the aging process. And while one in five adults aged 65 and older do experience a fall each year, many of these falls can be prevented with proper fall prevention strategies.

It’s a good idea to take fall prevention measures as early as possible because a fall can be a danger for older adults. For the elderly, a broken bone or other injury from a fall could lead to long-term disability or even be potentially fatal.

In 2020, falls caused over 36,000 deaths for those aged 65 and up in the United States, making them one of the leading causes of death for that age group. Falls cause even more serious injuries as emergency departments reported around 3 million visits from seniors due to falls that same year.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can reduce your risk of falling and suffering a serious injury. Below, we review common causes of falls, plus some tips and elderly fall prevention strategies to lower the risk of having a fall-related accident.

Common Fall Risks for Seniors

There are various reasons older adults may be more prone to falls. Many are related to underlying health conditions that can affect balance, reflexes, and/or cognition. Some of these conditions include:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Thyroid issues
  • Dementia
  • Sarcopenia (age-related muscle mass loss)
  • Postural hypotension (drop in blood pressure that comes from getting up after sitting or lying down)
  • Foot problems
  • Incontinence (can cause falls from rushing to the bathroom)

Another main factor in falls is that your eyesight, hearing, and reflexes may not be as sharp in old age. Everyday safety hazards are a fall risk as well. These can be anything from your footwear to the weather to obstacles in your home.

However, there are multiple ways to avoid injuring yourself from a fall, no matter the cause.

How to Prevent Falls

Preventing falls may be something as simple as getting a new pair of shoes, or it could be as big as making a lifestyle change. However, a prevention measure will be worth it in the long run if it means you can stay healthy well into old age.

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Get Regular Exercise

Exercising every day is one of the best ways for seniors to lessen their risk of a fall. You don’t need to do anything too strenuous. Simply walking around the block once a day can reduce your risk of a fall. Getting regular light exercise can also improve your strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility, which can not only lessen your chances of falling but help you avoid other health issues too. One of these other health conditions that exercise can help prevent is osteoporosis so that in the event of a fall, you won’t suffer as serious an injury as a broken bone.

A good everyday way to exercise besides walking is climbing stairs. You could also try balance and strength training exercises such as yoga, tai chi, and Pilates. Or you could build strength using resistance bands.

If you’re avoiding physical activity because you believe it will cause a fall or for another health reason, then it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about your options. They can help you figure out a carefully monitored exercise program or refer you to a physical therapist.

Check Your Medications

Some of your prescription or over-the-counter medications may have negative side effects that could cause you to fall. Many drugs have side effects such as dizziness, lightheadedness, or drowsiness, which can easily be factors in a fall. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you experience any of these side effects before an accident occurs.

Get Enough Sleep

Many older adults do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. However, not sleeping enough can have more of a negative impact than just making you cranky. If you’re tired, you’re more likely to fall because you may be too exhausted to pay attention to your surroundings.

If you’re always tired, no matter how much sleep you get, or you have trouble sleeping at night, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider as there may be an underlying medical concern.

Avoid or Limit Alcohol

Even a little bit of alcohol can make you dizzy and/or lightheaded. It can also impair your vision and cognition if you have too much. The more alcohol you have, the more likely it is you could fall and risk serious injury to yourself. It’s best to avoid it altogether, but if you do have a drink then it’s best to make sure there are others around you who can help you get around if needed.

Be Careful in Bad Weather

If it’s raining or snowing out it can be slippery outside and inside. Weather like this can make indoor and outdoor surfaces very slippery and it’s easy for anyone to fall on them. Be sure to walk carefully, hold on to a railing or something nearby if you can, and put down salt outside your home during the winter so your walkways are clear of ice.

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If the weather is really bad, it’s best to just stay inside if you can. Plenty of places and services offer delivery of essential items such as food and prescriptions, and many take orders over the phone.

Change Your Footwear

Smooth sole shoes and high heels can make it harder to walk, especially in rainy or icy weather. These kinds of shoes can affect balance, and they may not provide enough support for your feet. The best kind of footwear to prevent falls is non-skid, rubber-soled, and/or low-heeled.

How to Fall-Proof Your Home

When it comes to keeping yourself safe from injury at home, it’s essential to be mindful of potential hazards that could lead to falls.

Move Any Tripping Hazards

Start by clearing away any objects that might obstruct walkways, such as boxes and electrical cords. These items can create tripping hazards, especially in areas with frequent foot traffic. In addition, consider relocating things like coffee tables and chairs from spaces where people often walk to prevent collisions and stumbles.

Fix Any Faulty Flooring

Another critical step in preventing falls is to fix any unstable flooring. Attend to any loose floorboards or unsteady sections of carpeting to prevent potential accidents. Also be sure to secure any loose rugs using double-faced tape, tacks, or slip-resistant backing to keep them firmly in place. You could also remove these rugs from your home altogether and eliminate any potential fall risk.

Organize

It’s also important to organize your belongings in a way that makes them easily accessible. Store items like clothing, dishes, and food within reach, reducing the need to use step stools or reach for objects that could lead to imbalance.

Clear Up Spills

Cleaning up any spills is yet another important aspect of preventing falls. Wipe up spilled liquids, grease, or food immediately to eliminate slip hazards. By promptly addressing these spills, you’ll create a more secure environment for everyone in your household.

Pay Extra Attention in the Bathroom

A lot of fall-related accidents happen in the bathroom, especially in the shower or tub. Use nonslip mats within the bathtub or shower to minimize the risk of slipping on wet surfaces. Additionally, consider using a bath seat, which allows you to sit comfortably while showering, reducing the chances of slips and falls. You can also install grab bars in the shower or tub to hold onto. Be sure to be careful on the toilet as well. A raised toilet seat or armrests next to the toilet are helpful safety measures.

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Keep a Light On

Lastly, keeping your home well-lit is good to prevent accidents due to unseen obstacles. One suggestion is to use night lights in key areas like the bedroom, bathroom, and hallways. It’s also a good idea to have a reachable lamp next to your bed if you need to navigate your room in the dark. Consider using glow-in-the-dark or illuminated light switches as well. Another safety measure with lighting is to turn on the lights before using the stairs at night. Finally, store flashlights in easily accessible spots to be prepared for power outages and emergencies.

How Medicare Can Help if You’ve Had a Fall

If you’ve had a fall, depending on how serious it was, you may need to go to the emergency room. Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention, especially if you hit your head or think you’ve fractured a bone. Medicare Part A covers visits to the emergency room.

Even if you haven’t suffered a fall recently, you should see your doctor at least once a year to check your vision and hearing. Even slight changes or declines in your eyesight and hearing can make you more susceptible to falls. Your doctor can also check for any underlying conditions that may put you at risk for falls. Medicare Part B covers primary care physician visits and preventive checkups and tests.

Your healthcare provider may recommend an assistive device to help you prevent falls in the future. This can be a cane, walker, wheelchair, or scooter. Durable medical equipment prescribed by a doctor is covered under Medicare Part B.

If necessary, your doctor can refer you to an occupational therapist to help you create a personalized fall prevention plan. Occupational therapy services are also covered by Medicare Part B.

Will Your Medicare Coverage Help Cover Costs Related to Falls?

If you’d like more information on how Medicare can provide coverage to help you prevent falls, we have licensed agents who can answer your questions. They can help you find the coverage you need so you can have peace of mind in case you do have a fall-related injury. Just call the number above or fill out our rate comparison form to get an estimate of Medicare plan premiums in your area.

Sources

MedicareFAQ is dedicated to providing you with authentic and trustworthy Medicare information. We have strict sourcing guidelines and work diligently to serve our readers with accurate and up-to-date content.

  1. CDC Elderly Fall Data. Accessed September 2023.
    https://www.cdc.gov/falls/index.html
  2. Health Affairs - Older Adult Falls—Costly But Not Inevitable. Accessed September 2023.
    https://www.healthaffairs.org/content/forefront/older-adult-falls-costly-but-not-inevitable
Kayla Hopkins

Kayla Hopkins

Content Editor
Kayla Hopkins is an accomplished writer and Medicare guru serving as the Editor of MedicareFAQ.com. Upon completing her Communications degree from Ohio University, Kayla dedicated her time to understanding the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare. With her extensive background as a Licensed Medicare Insurance Agent, she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her writing.
Ashlee Zareczny

Ashlee Zareczny

Compliance Manager
Ashlee Zareczny is the Compliance Manager for MedicareFAQ. As a licensed Medicare agent in all 50 states, she is dedicated to educating those eligible for Medicare by providing the necessary resources and tools. Additionally, Ashlee trains new and tenured Medicare agents on CMS compliance guidelines. Ashlee is a Medicare expert who specializes in Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D education.

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