Director, Fall Prevention Program at Parachute
A fall can have a lasting impact on a person, resulting in injury, chronic pain, reduced quality of life, or even loss of independence.
You might think falling is an inevitable consequence of getting older, but it doesn’t need to be. We need to understand the significant risks when older adults suffer injury when they fall.
Falls are the primary reason for injury-related death, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits for older adults in Canada. Falls among older adults cost the Canadian economy $5.6 billion a year in medical and other expenses — nearly 20 percent of the total cost of injury in Canada.
Our bodies naturally change with age, which affects the way we feel, move, and behave. A fall can have a devastating and lasting impact on a person, resulting in injury, chronic pain, reduced quality of life, or even loss of independence and autonomy. Even without an injury, a fall can cause older adults to lose confidence and deter their activities. The good news is that you can take specific actions to minimize the risk of falls.
Key strategies to prevent falls
These are the most effective steps you can take to prevent a fall, as assessed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and Finding Balance, a program for older adults and caregivers created by the Injury Prevention Centre at the University of Alberta.
Exercise: challenge your balance and build strength. You might think moving less means reducing your risk of a fall, but the exact opposite is true.
Get enough sleep: fatigue can hamper balance.
Take your time: don’t rush when walking or getting up.
Eat healthy foods and drink water: your overall health affects your ability to move safely.
Get your sight and hearing checked regularly: if you need glasses or hearing aids, get them, as improved vision and hearing will help you avoid hazards that could lead to a fall.
Manage your medications and review them regularly with your pharmacist or doctor, as some may make you prone to dizziness and falling.
Wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes, even when at home.
Consider using a cane or other mobility device if needed, but do so after consulting a health professional such as an occupational therapist.
In your home
Make sure you have proper lighting in hallways, stairs, walkways, and the bedroom and bathroom.
Keep stairs free of clutter and exterior stairs and walkways free of clutter, ice, or snow.
Install handrails on both sides of your stairs and safety grab bars in the bathroom.
Check your home for slipping and tripping hazards and use non-slip mats or rugs.
Ensure regularly used items are within reach.
Reach out to a health professional for a home safety assessment.
The proportion of Canadians aged 65 and older was projected to increase from 17.5 percent in 2019 to between 21.4 percent and 29.5 percent by 2068.
Fall prevention is critical as our Canadian population ages. Without successful prevention strategies, we face the complex and pressing issue of providing treatment and facilities to care for those who have been injured due to a fall.