Falls are one of the most cause for injury in older adults. In the US, the age-adjusted fall death rate is 64 deaths per 100,000 older adults and fall death rates among adults age 65 and older increased about 30% from 2009 to 2018. As people age, the number of risks factors for falls also increases.
The main risk factors for fall is fear of falling, poor reaction times and visual impairment. Other risk factors that cause falls in older people are rising age, use of high dozen medication, sensory deficit and cognitive impairment. Health condition such as heart disease, dementia, and high or low blood pressure can also dizziness and lead to falls.
Tips To Prevent Falls
It is important to take care of your overall health so that you can lower your chances of falling. Here are some tips to reduce risk of falling:
- Stay Physically Active: Follow an exercise program that is suitable for you. Regular exercise helps to improve muscles, keep your joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible and makes you stronger. Light weight-bearing activities, such as walking or climbing stairs, may slow bone loss from osteoporosis.
- Get Proper Sleep: Make sure to get enough sleep. If you are sleepy, you are more likely to fall.
- Know The Side Effects Of Any Medicine You Take: Find out if any of your medications makes you sleepy or dizzy. Talk to your doctor about whether it’s possible to reduce or eliminate the use of such medications.
- Always Stand Up Slowly: Getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop and make you feel wobbly. So always get up slowly. Make sure to get your blood pressure checked when lying and standing.
- Limit The Amount Of Alcohol You Drink: As you age, even a small amount of alcohol can affect your balance and reflexes. Studies show that the rate of hip fractures in older adults increases with increased alcohol consumption.
- Check Your Eye Sight And Hearing: Any minor changes in sight and hearing may cause you to fall. When you get new eyeglasses or contact lenses, take time to get used to them. Always wear your glasses or contacts when you need them. If you have a hearing aid, be sure it fits well and wear it.
- Use An Assistive Device To Help You With Walking: If you are unsteady in walking then use canes and walkers to prevent falls. Make sure it is the right size for you and the wheels roll smoothly. If you are walking on uneven areas, it is important to uses an assistive device. A physical or occupational therapist can help you decide which devices might be helpful and teach you how to use them safely.
- Be Very Careful When Walking On Wet Or Icy Surfaces: Wet areas can be very slippery. Spread salt or sand on icy areas by your front or back door.
- Wear Non-Skid Shoes: Wear non-skid rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes, or lace-up shoes with non-skid soles that can support your feet. It is important that the soles are not too thin or too thick. Don’t walk on stairs or floors in socks or in shoes and slippers with smooth soles.
- Inform Your Doctor If You Have Fallen After Your Last Check-Up, even if you didn’t get hurt when you fell. A fall can alert your doctor to a new medical problem or problems with your medications or eyesight that can be corrected. Your doctor may suggest physical therapy, a walking aid, or other steps to help prevent future falls.
Environmental risk factors such as hazards found in and around the home and in public places, uneven surfaces and the lack of hand or grab rails increases the risk of falling. All these above- mentioned tips can help older adults to move around safely and avoid falling down and getting hurt.
Skin care is very important at any age but as you get older, you need to take extra care of your skin. With aging, the skin undergoes a number of natural changes, including loss of elasticity and ability to return to its normal shape. However, skin aging also depends on factors such as lifestyle, diet, heredity, and personal habits (such as smoking). The good news is that taking certain steps can keep your skin healthy at any age.
One of the major reasons for skin damage is sun exposure. UV light breaks down skin’s elastic tissue and causes the skin to stretch, sag, wrinkle, and become freckled, occasionally with pre-cancerous growths and even skin cancer. WebMD lists the skin changes that accompany aging as:
- Roughened or dry skin
- Benign growths
- Loose facial skin, especially around the eyes, cheeks, and jawline
- Transparent or thinned skin
- Bruising easily due to reduced elasticity
The skin conditions specific to older adults are as follows:
- Wrinkles: This is one most common visible signs of aging. Wrinkles develop over time due to the effects of gravity. Smoking can cause the skin to wrinkle prematurely and UV rays can deplete skin elasticity.
While wrinkles can’t be cured, the appearance of wrinkles caused by sun damage can be reduced through the use of tretinoin (Renova). Talk with your doctor if you are worried about wrinkles.
- Acne: This is another common skin problem among younger people and the elderly. An article in Everyday Health cites a 2016 report from the American Academy of Dermatology which reported that acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million people every year. Commonly appearing on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, and upper back, acne may leave scars or darken the skin if untreated.
Simple homemade face masks may work for acne. If they do not, see a dermatologist for proper treatment.
- Facial movement lines: Known as “laugh lines” and “worry lines,” these become more visible as the skin loses its elasticity (in your 40s or 50s). They typically appear on the forehead, nose, the temples, upper cheeks, and around the mouth and eyes. Facial lines form due to daily facial movements such as smiling and frowning.
- Dry and itching skin: Many elderly people suffer from dry spots on the skin, often on the lower legs, elbows, and lower arms. This mainly occurs due to the loss of oil glands which help to keep the skin soft. According to National Institute on Aging, the possible reasons for dry skin include
- Not drinking enough liquids
- Spending too much time in the sun
- Being in very dry air
- Feeling stress
- Losing sweat and oil glands, which is common with age
In some cases, dry, itchy skin may be a sign indicator of health disease such as a sign of diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease.
The best treatment for dry skin is to moisturize your skin daily. Use moisturizers such as creams, lotions or ointments everyday as it helps to trap the moisture on the skin. Take fewer baths or showers as frequent bathing can aggravate dry skin; importantly, use warm rather than hot water. Humidifiers also help to hydrate the skin. If these tips don’t work and your skin is very dry and itchy, see your doctor.
- Age spots: Aging can cause brown patches on sun-exposed parts of the body (face, hands, and forearms). These spots are flat and are bigger than freckles, but harmless. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen can help protect against two types of the sun’s rays, UVA and UVB, and prevent these age spots from appearing.
- Skin cancer: Skin cancer, which s a very common type of cancer in the United States, occurs due to sun exposure.
If you notice a mole changing appearance or new skin growth, get an evaluation by a dermatologist. A biopsy will be recommended if skin cancer is suspected.
- Bed Sores: Also known as pressure ulcers, this skin problem is seen in people with impaired mobility. Frequent rotation or re-positioning can help prevent bedsores.
Winter is a beautiful time of year, but snow, ice and cold temperatures can create challenging situations for anyone, especially seniors. Older adults can lose body heat faster than when they were young and develop hypothermia, a dangerous problem when the body temperature gets very low. According to a care.com article, for an older person, a body temperature of 95°F or lower can cause serious health problems such as a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, and more. Being prepared is important to stay safe. Here are some cold weather safety tips for older adults
- Take measures to avoid slips and falls on ice: Falls and slips are a common problem in winter for both the young and old. But falls can cause major complications in older adults such as hip and wrist fractures, head trauma and major lacerations. Taking the following precautions can reduce the risks of falls:
- Wear shoes with good traction and non-skid soles
- Stay inside until the roads are clear
- To make walking easier, replace a worn cane tip
- Make sure steps and walkways are clear before you walk. Take off shoes soon after you come indoors because snow and ice that remains on the soles can melt and lead to slippery conditions inside.
- Keep warm inside and outside: Too much cold can lead to hypothermia or frostbite. To prevent the body temperature from falling too low, dress in layers and wear warm socks, a heavy coat, a hat, scarf, and gloves, and scarf when you go outdoors. Cover all exposed skin and make sure that your body temperature doesn’t dip below 95 degrees. If it does, get medical assistance immediately. Make sure you eat enough food to maintain your weight. Body fat helps you to stay warm.
- Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning: When using a fireplace, gas heater or other heating source, make sure they are properly vented, and cleaned. If not, they can leak dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that you cannot see or smell. Invest in a carbon monoxide detector and if you already have one, check the batteries. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are persistent, severe headaches and dizziness, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. If you think you may be affected, seek medical help immediately.
- Avoid driving: According to an article in healthinaging.org, adults 65 and older are involved in more car accidents per mile driven than those in nearly all other age groups. So it would better if seniors can avoid driving in winter. It can be hazardous for anyone to drive in this season, but older adults face higher risks as their reflexes may not be as quick as they once were. So if you really want to drive take some precautions:
- Before the bad weather hits, winterize your car: check the tires, antifreeze, windshield wipers, etc., and change whatever’s necessary
- Always let someone know where you are going
- Don’t forget your cell phone
- Try avoiding driving on icy roads, and be especially careful while driving on overpasses or bridges. It’s better to take bigger roads as they are often cleared of snow.
- Maintain a balanced diet: As people mostly spend their time in doors during winters, it’s possible that they might eat a lesser variety of foods which might result nutritional deficiencies, especially vitamin D. This could pose serious health problems. So eat healthy. For vitamin D, include milk and grains, and seafood options like tuna and salmon.
If you need help, don’t hesitate to approach a family member, neighbor or friends. Wintertime certainly poses challenges for seniors, but with a bit of planning and awareness, you can stay healthy and experience the joys of the season.
Balance is a key component of strength, endurance, and flexibility. It is common to see older adults lose their balance when they age. If you have balance problems, it means you are prone to falls, slips, and related accidents. According to Harvard Health, one in three people age 65 or older will suffer a fall. In fact, loss of balance is a common cause of falls which send millions of people in the United States to emergency departments each year with broken hips and head injuries.
To maintain their health, many older adults focus on exercises and diet, but that’s not enough to cope with balance problems. Physicians recommend balance exercises for fall prevention. Proper balance exercises paired with certain strength exercises can be a great help in preventing falls by improving the body’s ability to control and maintain position. Here are some effective strategies to boost balance:
- Core strength exercises : Physical preparedness with focus on core strength exercises is recommended to prevent falling. The core is basically the midsection of your body and strengthening it helps improve control of the upper and lower extremities, improve balance, and functional performance.
- Physical therapy : This strategy focuses on the ability of the joints and brain to communicate, the balance system in the ear (the vestibular system), and vision. Vestibular rehabilitation (VR), a specialized form of therapy, can help alleviate problems caused by vestibular disorders. This program is mainly designed to reduce vertigo and dizziness, gaze instability, and/or imbalance and falls.
- Balance Walk : This is a simple exercise that can help you walk safely and avoid tripping and falling over objects in your way. Raise your arms to sides at shoulder height, focus on a spot ahead of you and walk steadily. As you walk, lift your back leg and count to 1 before stepping. Repeat the steps 20 times on alternate legs.
- Tai chi and yoga : Research from Temple University showed that women 65 and older who took twice-weekly yoga classes for 9 weeks increased ankle flexibility and had more confidence in walking. Tai chi and yoga exercises make you pay attention to the control and quality of movement, which improves your balance. In tai chi, you practice slow, flowing motions whereas yoga integrates a series of focused postures and breathing exercises. These exercises increase flexibility, range of motion, leg and core strength, and reflexes, which improve balance and help avoid falling.
- Vision correction : If you have an unaddressed vision problem, it would increase your risk of falls. You may not see what’s lying on the floor and will end up losing your balance if you step on to it. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to any vision problems. People 65 or older have an increased risk for eye conditions. So if you are in this age group, make sure you get a comprehensive, dilated eye exam every one or two years.
- Assistive walking devices : Using a cane or walker to complement balance will give you more stability and confidence while walking. Assistive walking devices such as walkers with various handgrips and bases and wheels are available for different types of terrain. They come with lockable brakes, seats, baskets, and other features such as headlights and canes.
As we age, maintaining mobility and performing basic movements becomes difficult because our muscles become shorter and may lose their elasticity. Some seniors suffer joint pain on a daily basis. Stretching exercises increase flexibility of the joints and help older adults remain active and independent. Stretching benefits include development and maintenance of strength, improved flexibility, and increased circulation and blood flow, all of which enhance quality of life and promote healthy aging. Let’s take a closer look at the key benefits of stretching for older adults.
- Reduces low back pain and arthritis: Osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis are two diseases commonly seen in older adults. These conditions are the main causes of low back pain. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is caused by the gradual degeneration of cartilage between the facet joints whereas spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the bone channel occupied by the spinal nerves or cord. While both conditions are a natural part of aging and cannot directly be avoided, stretching exercises can help manage related pain. Regular stretching benefits older adults by improving flexibility, range of motion, and elasticity to relieve stiffness in the afflicted joints.
- Reduces risk of falling: According to an article in www.lifespanfitness, each year, one out of three older adults will fall, with 2.5 million individuals needing treatment in emergency facilities annually. The risk of falling is a major concern for older adults who are 65 and older. Studies show that regular bouts of stretching can reduce the risk of falling.
- Helps to improve poor posture: As we age, our posture too changes, with a forward head, rounded shoulders and upper back, and forward pressing hips. This is mainly because our body’s water content in connective tissue, such as ligaments and tendons, decreases, resulting in reduced elasticity and flexibility. Poor posture can create pain in the lower back and between the shoulder blades. Senior strength training exercises along with a stretching routine will help balance out weaker muscles, correct poor posture and improve flexibility.
- Increases blood flow and energy levels: In older adults, increased energy is important to maintain independence, staying socially active, and for overall healthy aging. The body’s energy level can be improved by doing low-intensity form of stretching that utilizes movement to stretch the muscles. Examples for low-intensity stretching exercises are arm swings, shoulder circles, lunges, leg swings, and half squats.
If you are a person who workouts regularly, try to incorporate some stretching exercises in your warm-up and cool down to ease any discomfort or pain that can occur later. It’s important to consult your doctor before you start any new exercise regimen.