The 5 Most Common Causes Of Falls In The Elderly

Identifying Possible Causes of Falls in Seniors

By identifying the common causes of falls in the elderly, you can put a plan in place to help prevent falls in the first place. Should a fall happen, learn when you should consult your health care professional.

senior woman helping husband up after he had a fall
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More than one out of four older people fall every year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [1]. Unfortunately, this can be a major issue for someone older. Falling is a much more serious risk for the elderly because it can result in much more severe injuries than younger counterparts.

An older adult is at risk for hip fractures and other injuries that can drastically impact one’s ability to maintain adequate mobility. This problem is only getting worse as the CDC projects 7 deaths every hour by the year 2030 [1].

This article will give you some insight as to why older people are much more likely to experience dangerous falls and some of the main causes of these falls.

Some Of The Possible Causes of Falls Among Seniors and the Elderly

1. Weakness In The Lower Body

Seniors are much more likely to suffer from lower body weaknesses for various reasons. One of the reasons can be exacerbated by leading a sedentary lifestyle. Older people are less likely to be active than younger people.

As a result, their leg muscles suffer from atrophy from not being used as much. This can result in the legs being an ineffective support system for the entire body. It affects the senior’s mobility too contributing to falls while walking.

2. Osteoporosis

This is another major cause that contributes to falls in the elderly. Many people suffer from this chronic skeletal disease which results in severe loss in bone mass. There have been estimations that as many as 10 million people in the US alone have this disease [2].

It has been found that the majority of those who suffer from this condition are over the age of 65. Likewise, they suffer the most from the consequences of the disease as 70 percent of all fractures among those with this disease are 65 or older [2].

Having osteoporosis not only heightens the risk of falling, but also the consequences of taking a fall.

Because of this, it is important to not only detect but minimize the negative impact that the disease can have on you. Some of the things that can help with osteoporosis would be getting more calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K in your diet. Also, taking in more sun to allow your body to generate vitamin D production.

graphic comparing normal bones to bones with osteoporosis
Osteoporosis can not only make injuries from falls more likely, they can also cause them.

3. Loss of Vision

You are much more likely to experience a fall if you don’t have good vision and/or your vision is obstructed. After all, you could trip over a rug or virtually anything else that is on the floor in your way.

Therefore, it would be better to have your home properly lit to ensure you can spot anything obstructing your path.

4. Foot Health

Older people may suffer from a variety of different foot disorders or foot problems that can create a loss of balance. Whether you have bunions, flattened arches, or anything else, you want to try to get corrective footwear to accommodate.

That way, you can maintain your balance while you are walking around. Any foot pain or improper footwear is likely to boost your chances of stumbling and falling and seriously injuring yourself.

Wearing shoes that can help prevent falls is an important part of a fall prevention strategy.

5. Medication

Older people are much more likely to be on various types of medication that can cause drowsiness or balance. These medications can result in you becoming lightheaded and losing your balance.

If you are on a medication that causes you to be dizzy, talk to your doctor about it. A fall from your medication can be easily prevented. If you must take medication that makes you dizzy or loses your balance, sits down until the effects wear off.

When Should You Seek Medical Attention After A Fall

1. Tell Your Doctor No Matter What

As mentioned, 1 out of 4 elderly people suffer from a fall each year but less than half of them tell their doctor [1]. This is not something that you want to do.

You should be letting your doctor know that you have suffered a fall no matter how drastic it was – every single time. There are plenty of things that can happen during a fall that you want to check on. Not all the possible consequences of a fall can be seen or felt right away.

Not only will it give your doctor insight about your specific incident, but it will give them the awareness that you may be at an increased risk for falling again. They can give you specific ways to prevent falls from happening again.

2. You Hit Your Head

If you suffered a fall and you hit your head and passed out, you will want to call your doctor as soon as possible. Any injury to the head can be dangerous for someone young or old. Therefore, you should be taking any head injury sustained from a fall very seriously.

If you are experiencing being light-headed or dizziness after sustaining a head injury from a fall, you want to visit your doctor as soon as possible.

3. Swelling In Any Body Part

One of the major things that you should be looking out for when you sustain a fall would be swelling virtually anywhere on your body. If you fell and you are experiencing swelling and severe pain in your wrist or even your hip, you want to seek medical attention. Even a small fall can cause fractures or breaks.

Therefore, you want to take swelling seriously. Swelling is a sign that you have sustained a serious injury to an area on your body. If you experience any sustained swelling on your body after a fall and pain accompanies it, you want to seek medical attention.

elderly woman consults with her doctor about the causes of falls in the elderly
You should discuss falls with your doctor every single time.

What Your Doctor Should Check After a Fall

1. Your Head

This is one of the main things that you want your doctor to check after experiencing a fall. Even if you don’t know if you hit your head, your head needs to be checked after a fall.

After all, any hit to the head can be very dangerous especially for someone who is on a certain type of medication like blood thinners [1]. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries [1].

2. Your Bones

Bone injuries are most common when it comes to experiencing a fall as someone older. After all, more than 95 percent of all hip fractures are a direct result of falling [1].

Therefore, you want to get x-rays after experiencing a fall to rule out any potential of a fracture. When you are old, you are much more likely to experience a fracture or a broken bone when you fall.

So, you want to rule out any fracture or break after sustaining a fall.

Summary and Final Recommendations

As you can see, there are so many different causes that can result in a fall. As someone older, you are at an increased risk of suffering a fall whether it be minor or major.

Unfortunately, even the most minor falls can present serious risks for older people due to decreases in bone density and more. Therefore, you should be contacting your doctor after sustaining any kind of fall.

But, you shouldn’t let the fear of falling negatively impact your willingness to be active. Not maintaining enough activity can put you at an increased risk of suffering falls among other things. Therefore, you should maintain heightened levels of activity but be aware of the risk associated with falling.

Likewise, take any fall you experience seriously and inform your doctor of it. They should know exactly what to look for when you fall and they should be able to give you guidance on how to better protect yourself in the future.

References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3767038/

Avatar for Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®
About Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS® 415 Articles
Assistive Technology Professional, Custom Wheelchair Specialist, Medical Equipment Guru, Dad and Grandfather
I am a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not working as a custom wheelchair specialist at a regional home medical equipment company, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's. Learn More

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