As we age, there are changes in our cells, organs, bones, and muscles. Our senses like vision, hearing, and taste are reduced. Our brain and nervous system work differently. All of this can lead to a higher risk of falls.
But that doesn’t mean falls are a normal part of aging. Many falls can be prevented.
In this article, we’re talking about some of the common physical changes that occur as we age, and how to reduce your risks.
Blood Pressure Changes
Sometimes your blood pressure drops if you stand up from a sitting or lying down position. This is called postural or orthostatic hypotension.
A blood pressure change can make you feel dizzy or light-headed. Sometimes it causes blurred vision. It can even cause fainting and falls. Sitting or lying down often makes the symptoms get better. Talk with your doctor about this or any other changes in your blood pressure.
To reduce your risk:
Move slowly when you stand up. Give your body time to adjust to the new position.
When getting out of bed, sit on the side of the bed with your legs down for at least 30 seconds before standing.
Don’t walk if you feel dizzy.
Keep your phone within reach.
Inner Ear Disorders
The inner ear is a complex system of tiny canals filled with fluid. The position of the fluid changes as you move. A sensor in the ear then sends messages about this movement to your brain. This “vestibular” system orients your body to rotation and motion. Our sense of balance comes from these signals, along with sight and touch.
More than half of all Americans over age 60 have an inner-ear imbalance, or “vestibular disorder.” This leads to dizziness, vertigo, and falls.
To reduce risk:
Keeping your home safe with inner ear problems means setting it up to stay stable and use your other senses for balance.
Walk through your home and look for ways to limit head motion.
Be sure you have stable furniture to hold if you get dizzy.
Make sure your pathways are clear.
As we get older, the bladder changes. The elastic bladder tissue may toughen and become less stretchy. A less-stretchy bladder cannot hold as much urine as before. This might make you go to the bathroom more often (urgency or frequency). The bladder wall and pelvic floor muscles may weaken. This makes it harder to empty the bladder fully and can cause urine to leak (called incontinence).
Bladder problems are common and can disrupt your life. When you have a sudden need to go to the bathroom, you may stand up quickly. This can lead to dizziness or falls.
You may have to get up several times during the night to use the bathroom. If you don’t have proper lighting to get to the restroom, you may fall.
You may avoid social settings and have a harder time getting tasks done during the day. All of these increase your risk of falling.
To reduce your risk:
Stop drinking fluids 2-3 hours before bedtime, if approved by your doctor.
Limit or avoid caffeine.
Empty your bladder after meals, after naps, before bed, and before activity.
Leave a night light on for safety with commode use at night.
Some vision problems can increase your risk of a fall. These include cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and Macular Degeneration.
Low vision affects people in different ways. Some may see things as “foggy” or “blurry” and have trouble seeing details. Some have trouble seeing if there is glare or bright light, while others have trouble if the lighting level is too low. Others may only be able to see large objects or see the difference between shadow and light.
Sometimes the outer edges or center of your vision may be blocked, and depth perception may be affected, leading to falls and injuries.
To reduce your risk of a fall:
Have your eyes checked regularly. Keep eyeglass lenses clean.
Push chairs under tables when you’re not using them. Ask family members and visitors to keep furniture in the same place, and always discuss any changes before rearranging.
In the bathroom, consider dark towels and mats if you have light walls or floors.
Get rid of clutter. This will reduce the risk of tripping and make it easier to find items you need when you need them.
Can Home Health Help Reduce Your Fall Risk?
If you have these medical issues, home health may be able to help reduce your fall risk. Nurses can address medical issues that may cause dizziness or weakness. Physical Therapists can help with strengthening and flexibility. Occupational therapists can help you adapt your daily activities for safety.
To discuss options based on your medical needs, please call A Path of Care at (844) 301-4705 or send us a message. We can talk about how you can your home health services covered by original Medicare. Some other insurance plans cover home health with no out-of-pocket expense, so get in touch today.