Dear Donna:

My 78-year-old mother lost her balance on a small step and suffered a nasty fall. She wasn’t seriously injured, but was badly bruised. While my mom blamed the shoes she was wearing, I think there is more to it.

One change in her well-being my family and I have noticed recently is weight loss. I’m wondering if it might be linked to her fall. Do you have any fall prevention tips I can use to lower my mom’s risk? We know she might not be as lucky should she experience another fall.

Sincerely,

Chris in Saline, MI

Fall Prevention Awareness Day

Dear Chris,

Sounds like a frightening experience for your mother and you! I’m glad she wasn’t more seriously injured. Many seniors who’ve experienced a bad fall worry it will happen again. It can create a great deal of anxiety, so I hope she’s coping with that challenge.

Your question about preventing falls is common, especially from worried adult children. Understandably so when you know how common and dangerous falls are for seniors:

  • Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors.
  • Every year, 1 in 4 adults over the age of 65 experiences a fall.
  • A senior is treated in a hospital emergency room for injuries related to a fall every 11 seconds. Every 19 minutes, one of those older adults loses their life.
  • People who fall once are more likely to do so again. Seniors often limit activity to prevent another fall. It can result in a lonely, isolated life.

These statistics are why September 22 is designated as Falls Prevention Awareness Day every year. It’s a day to inform the public about the dangers of falls, especially among our elders.

Here are a few suggestions to consider for your mom’s safety:

  • Visit the doctor: If your mother didn’t go to the emergency room after her fall, I would recommend a follow-up visit with her primary care physician. The doctor is the best person to render advice on possible causes.
  • Examine her diet: Unintended weight loss can be a sign of an underlying health concern. If her doctor determines she is healthy, it could be the result of a poor diet. That is fairly common, especially among seniors who live alone. You might need to come up with healthy meals you can cook and freeze or explore home-delivered meal programs.
  • Focus on hydration: Dehydration can also increase the risk for a fall. Check with her physician, but the general recommendation is to drink 8 glasses of water each day. Foods with high water content, like berries, melon, lettuce, and tomatoes, can also help.
  • Conduct a home safety audit: Most homes weren’t built with the safety needs of older adults in mind. Uneven stair treads, bad lighting, and poorly designed bathrooms can all contribute. Conducting a home safety assessment, or hiring a professional to do one for you, can identify potential hazards to address.
  • Build core strength: If your mother has been leading a fairly sedentary life, she might need some strength training. Her doctor might refer her for a few sessions of physical therapy. That will allow her to learn some exercises she can do at home to stay strong.
  • Check medication side effects: Another potential concern can be found in her medicine cabinet. Medications may be contributing to her unsteadiness. Some have side effects that include dizziness and dehydration. Each of those can put your mother at increased risk for a fall. Talk with her pharmacist if you have any questions.

I hope this information is helpful, Chris! I wish you all the best in creating a fall prevention plan for your mother.

Kind regards,

Donna

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