Senior Falls: What To Know & How To Prevent Them

Bancroft NeuroRehab Clinicians Discuss Senior Fall Prevention & Safety with BIANJ

Bancroft NeuroRehab clinicians discuss fall prevention and safety for seniors, including at-home exercises that can improve strength and steps to take if a fall does occur.

In recognition of Brain Injury Awareness Month, Bancroft NeuroRehab Rehabilitation Supervisor Dr. Carolyn Tassini, PT, DPT, NCS, CBIST and Occupational Therapist Jillian Gordon, MS, OTR/L, CBIS joined the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey (BIANJ) to discuss fall prevention for seniors.

Falls are a major threat to older adults. According to the CDC, one out of four older adults ages 65 and older falls each year. Falls can reduce seniors’ ability to remain independent, spark fear and depression and can even lead to serious health conditions/injuries – like traumatic brain injury. Despite the risk, falls are preventable.

What causes falls?

Several conditions, many of which are associated with the natural aging process, can contribute to senior falls. Warning signs that seniors may be at risk of a fall include:

  • Difficulties with walking and balance
  • Visual impairments or recent changes in vision
  • Hearing impairments
  • Decrease in strength and/or endurance
  • Improper footwear
  • Cognitive changes, such as unsafe or impulsive behaviors and confusion
  • Environmental factors, like clutter in the house or difficulty accessing certain areas of the home
  • Use of some medications can also interfere with balance and how steady you are on your feet.

How can occupational therapists assist with fall prevention?

Occupational therapists are focused on helping individuals complete their daily activities and routines with as much safety and independence as possible. Occupational therapists can help older adults or individuals with neurologic conditions prevent falls by:

  • Identifying risk factors
  • Providing education and training around risk factors
  • Identifying helpful tools and/or equipment that can be used at home
  • Recommending home modifications, if necessary

What physical exercises can help prevent falls?

Seniors can reduce their fall risk by staying mobile and active. Several exercises and stretches can be performed at home to increase strength, flexibility, mobility and endurance. Improvement in these areas can help adults catch themselves if a fall occurs and can minimize the risk of a catastrophic event. A physical therapist can be consulted for advanced exercise and strengthening programs.

Senior Fall Prevention Tips

What can be done to prevent falls?

  • Talk with your healthcare provider. They can help evaluate your fall risk, review your medications and provide recommendations on appropriate exercise programs.
  • Maintain strength, mobility and balance through exercise. Always consult with your healthcare provider before beginning at-home exercise programs.
  • Make your home safer. Remove clutter and bulky throw rugs or carpet, install tools/equipment around the home for support – such as railings on both sides of the stairs or grab bars in the bathroom, and ensure your home has proper lighting.
  • Develop a safety plan. Discuss options with your loved ones and caretakers on how to prepare for a fall, and what to do if one occurs.

What should you do if you fall?

Despite prevention strategies, falls can still happen. If a fall occurs:

  • Seek help – whether with your cell phone, medical alert system or by calling out to a nearby loved one or caretaker.
  • Perform a safety check before attempting to stand up to ensure you are safe. Once this is performed, environmental supports – such as a sofa or side of a bathtub – can be used to help get up. If you cannot move safely, don’t – wait for help.
  • If you’ve hit your head, whether a small bump or hard hit, call 9-1-1 or your healthcare provider immediately. Symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, headache, confusion, neck stiffness and behavior changes are signs medical attention is needed as soon as possible.

If you have experienced a fall, it is important to determine the cause with your loved ones, caretakers and healthcare professionals – and to make at-home modifications or lifestyle changes as falling once greatly increases your chances of falling again.

Bancroft NeuroRehab’s physical and occupational therapists specialize in the rehabilitation of individuals with neurological disorders.

If you have noticed a change in your loved ones or are concerned about their fall risk, Bancroft NeuroRehab can help. Call 844-234-8387 to discuss your loved one’s care.