The statistics surrounding senior falls are alarming. Falls are the leading reason behind injury in older adults, and result in hundreds of thousands of hip fractures every year, as well as countless other injuries. As frequent as falls in the elderly are, the danger is more than doubled for anyone with stiff muscles and joints caused by osteoarthritis, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control.
Why Does Osteoarthritis Increase Fall Risk So Significantly?
There are several contributing factors:
- Pain. The joint pain caused by arthritis results in up to an 85 percent greater likelihood of falling, based on the number of painful joints a senior has and which joints are affected. The pain will naturally cause older adults to avoid utilizing the joints that cause pain, leading to muscle weakness and unsteadiness.
- Pain medications. While pain itself is sufficient to put seniors at an increased risk of falling, the very prescriptions meant to help can lead to harm as well. Prescription pain meds, particularly narcotics, cause dizziness and drowsiness – both key factors behind falls.
- Functioning difficulties. Joint stiffness and the mobility challenges it can cause alter how a person walks and moves. Each step taken normally places 80 percent of our body weight onto one limb; however, older adults with arthritis pain will discover ways to compensate for the discomfort, which could place them off balance.
Tips for Preventing Falls
Taking steps to prevent falls is essential for those diagnosed with osteoarthritis. There are two important components to fall prevention:
- Increase physical activity. Research reveals that improving flexibility and building muscle strength and balance will help eliminate stiff muscles and joints and reduce the possibility that an older adult with arthritis will experience a fall. Speak with an older adult’s physician first, and then try these low-impact exercises:
- Tai chi
- Weight training
- Assess the home environment. A walk-through of an older adult’s home often helps identify any possible dangers that can then be modified to boost safety. For example, remove clutter/obstacles/cords obstructing walking paths, add grab bars in the bathroom, make certain that sturdy handrails are in place alongside stairs, and add additional lighting.
Let Absolute Companion Care, an award-winning provider of home care services in Towson, Maryland and the surrounding areas, help further reduce fall risk for an older adult you love. We’re readily available to complete a comprehensive assessment of the house and to offer further suggestions to increase safety. We can also help with:
- Medication reminders
- Transportation to medical appointments, exercise classes, and anywhere else an older adult may need to go
- Housekeeping and meal preparation
- Safe walking and transfers
- Picking up prescriptions and groceries and running other errands, as requested
- Companionship to motivate seniors to stay active while remaining safe
- And much more