The statistics related to senior falls are concerning. Falls are classified as the leading reason behind injury in seniors, and result in hundreds of thousands of hip fractures annually, as well as the countless other injuries sustained. As prevalent as falls in the elderly are, the risk is more than doubled for anyone with osteoarthritis, as reported by the CDC.
Why Does Osteoarthritis Raise Fall Risk So Drastically?
There are many contributing factors:
- Pain. The joint pain as a result of osteoarthritis results in up to an 85% higher chance of falling, based on the number of painful joints a senior has and which joints are afflicted. The pain will naturally cause older adults to avoid using the joints that cause pain, leading to unsteadiness and muscle weakness.
- Pain medications. While pain itself is enough to put older adults at a higher danger of falling, the very prescriptions intended to help may also cause harm. Prescription pain meds, particularly narcotics, cause dizziness and drowsiness – both key reasons behind falls.
- Functioning difficulties. Joint and stiff knee pain along with the mobility challenges these can cause modifications to how a senior walks and moves. Each step taken normally places 80% of our body weight onto one limb, but those diagnosed with osteoarthritis pain will discover methods to compensate for the discomfort caused, which can place them off balance.
How to Avoid Falls
Taking steps to prevent falls is vital for older adults with osteoarthritis. There are two important components to fall prevention:
- Increase physical activity. Studies show that building muscle strength and improving flexibility and balance will decrease the chance that a senior with osteoarthritis will experience a fall. Speak with the doctor before trying these low-impact exercises:
- Tai chi
- Weight training
- Assess the home environment. A walk-through of the home often helps uncover any possible hazards and needed adjustments to increase safety can be made. For example, remove clutter/obstacles/cords obstructing walking paths, add grab bars in the bathroom, make sure that sturdy handrails are in place alongside stairs, and incorporate additional lighting.
Let Hearts at Home In-Home Care, one of the top home health agencies in Kansas City, KS, and the nearby areas help even further lower fall risk for an older adult you love. We’re on hand to complete a comprehensive assessment of the home and then offer tips to improve safety. We can also assist with:
- Medication reminders
- Transportation to medical appointments, exercise classes, and anywhere else an older adult wishes to go
- Housekeeping and meal preparation
- Safe transfers and walking
- Picking up prescriptions and groceries and running various other errands requested
- Companionship to motivate seniors to stay active while remaining safe
- And much more