Innovation in fall prevention
November is Fall Prevention Month in Canada: from sturdy shoes to wearable tech, United explores fall prevention strategies for older adults.
We’ve all had that moment: after taking a tumble over a hidden curb, or tripping on a random item left in the hall:
“Oof. I’m going to feel THAT in the morning,” you say half jokingly, while making a mental note to book an appointment with your massage therapist.
As we age, it’s often not as easy to “walk off” minor slips and trips and go casually about your day. Despite best efforts to maintain an active lifestyle, it might feel more challenging to get out of bed in the morning, or, your bedtime routine now includes reaching for an Advil to get ahead of any injuries sustained between the journey from kitchen to living room.
As we age, the potential impact of falls is something we start thinking more seriously about. We are caught up in our busy lives—not always noticing that we move less. And as arthritis, vision loss, and other age-related factors surface, suddenly daily tasks such as getting in and out of the bathtub can require extra care and planning. In fact, trips and falls are the number one injury-related reason older adults end up in the hospital, and often, result in serious life-altering injuries, like fractures or concussions.
The near miss
Many of us might think an extended hospital stay is the worst outcome of a fall but often, near misses like a trip or a minor tumble can lead to more pervasive psychological effects on an older adult, especially if the individual lives alone. Many seniors don’t report or downplay near misses, falls, or injuries to family or doctors, because they feel ashamed, fear worrying their loved ones, or are afraid of losing their independence.
In some cases, this anxiety can become so great that a loved one covers up a serious injury, or tries to treat it themselves. Falls of any severity can also lead to loss of confidence, anxiety, and reluctance to do similar activities that cause injury such as taking a walk outside, participating in beloved hobbies, or even day-to-day activities like bathing or cooking. This can mean further isolation, reduced physical activity, anxiety, depression, and even neglect of diet or hygiene routines—all to avoid falling.
Over the past six months at United, residents participated in a study to help researchers determine the effectiveness of an innovative wearable device created by Neursantys and tested in collaboration with the University of Calgary’s Human Performance Lab.
The non-invasive device stimulates inner ear vestibular function, with the intention of restoring balance for those experiencing age-related balance and mobility disruptions.
Ryan Peters, PhD, University of Calgary Human Performance Lab researcher and Associate Professor, and Neursantys Chief Science Officer commented: “The opportunity to collaborate with United Active Living is accelerating the development and deployment of Neursantys innovations that may help hundreds of millions of older adults continue living actively, independently, and productively for longer.”
Read the full article here.
Small steps, big impact
November is Fall Prevention Month across Canada, and is a campaign focusing on ways to reduce fall risk among older adults. While promising technological advancements like Neursantys’ wearable device are on the horizon, creating a strategy to prevent falls today is still an important step.
“Even just a few minutes of activity a day can make a huge difference in someone’s ability to prevent or recover from a fall,” says Tracy Roberts, one of United’s Registered Kinesiologists. “Even if an individual starts small, with just one or two exercises a day— it doesn’t actually take a lot of effort to make a huge impact on their ability to walk with stability and go about their day with confidence.”
With the expertise of United Active Living’s professional Fitness and Care teams, we’ve developed a list of ten tips for fall prevention. If you’re interested in reducing your risk of falls while maintaining mobility, independence, and an active lifestyle, read on:
- Pick it up
Ensure your living space is free of clutter: use brackets to contain extension cords and keep them off the floor. Use anti-slip mats under area rugs, or consider removing area rugs completely if they are likely to trip you up. Check that other tripping hazards are removed from your living area. Some medical equipment, like oxygen tubing, can be a common tripping hazard if it’s not contained in a reel, so keep that in mind when you are considering storage and organization of medical equipment.
- Make space
Ensure mobility aids, such as walkers, can maneuver easily between furniture, through hallways, and in the bathroom and kitchen, and that any stairwells have secure railings and, if necessary, traction strips.
- Reach out
Tools such as a grabber tool can help you reach high and low and may aid in picking up fallen objects or reaching objects without bending, stretching, or using a step-stool. Ensure items you use frequently, such as a microwave, are located where you can easily use them without reaching or bending.
- Get a grip
Install grab bars in bathtubs, showers, and near any high slip areas, and consider installing a custom toilet seat with a riser and safety handles. Take it slow: rushing to the washroom is when many people are at the highest risk of falling on a wet or slick surface, so being prepared and using proper safety protocols will go a long way in preventing a fall.
- Get a foothold
Ensure all footwear is comfortable, fits properly, and has non-slip grips. For those who prefer to go without shoes, socks with silicone grips are a good alternative.
- Keep moving
Even moderate exercise will be beneficial to reduce fall risk. Download a free exercise guide for seniors here. Better yet, consider connecting with friends or loved ones over an activity, and catch up while you’re on the move. (Note: prior to starting any new exercise program, speak to your health care team)
- Get perspective
Ensure eyewear is well-fitting and your prescription is current. AHS covers the cost of an annual eye exam for seniors 65+. Additionally, having regular hearing tests will reduce the chance of being startled by a sudden noise, which can result in a fall.
- Seek en’light’enment
Ensure lighting in your living spaces is bright. For hallways or other spaces that don’t usually have a lot of light, consider using motion lights, or high visibility reflective tape to assist with navigation.
- Make a list
List current medications and maintain it in a Green Sleeve kept on top of your refrigerator. Have your doctor or pharmacist review it to ensure there are no conflicting medications or that side-effects are not contributing to any balance issues.
- Talk it out
Have an open and honest conversation with your loved ones and your care team about risk factors for falls. You may need to consider different options for care, such as a fall detection device, or begin the process of transitioning to an older adult community.
Striking a balance
Fall prevention is about reducing your risk of falls before they happen. At United, we’re committed to striking the perfect balance of a community that celebrates your independence while addressing mobility needs, providing access to engaging physical activity, and encouraging social connection. Your wellness is our focus as we work to transform your experience of aging. Stop by a United community, and see how we take fall prevention in stride!