Six underlying causes that could result in trips and falls

Nov 11, 2013 | 0 comments

One out of three adults over the age of 65 will experience a potentially serious fall. Considerable time and careful consideration was given to spatial movement and safety during the design and development of the accommodation and surrounding layout of Helderberg Manor Retirement Village. Even if basic precautions such as securing floor rugs with non-skid backing and the installation of railings and grab bars are observed, we still find the occurrence of the occasional tumble. There may possibly be hidden health issues that could make one prone to a potentially catastrophic fall.

1. Eyesight
As you age, your eyesight is usually the first to go. With age, your eyes refocus more slowly, which is usually remedied by the use of prescription bi- or multifocal glasses. Unfortunately, these glasses often blur faraway objects, impairing your contrast sensitivity and depth perception. This may lead you to miss a step or trip over a loose cable. If you are wearing multifocal glasses for distance vision while walking, it is suggested that you tilt your head slightly down to give you a clearer view.

2. “Sensible” Footwear
As you age, you will inevitably lose some neurological functions that coordinate movement such as sensation in your feet. An interconnected network transfers the signal from our feet, through our legs and inner ear, telling us where to stand. Wearing thick-soled “sensible” shoes may provide you with additional arch support, but they also hamper the sensation in your feet. If you are prone to falls and poor balance you should wear thinner-soled footwear so you can feel the floor better.

3. Lopsided and unsteady gait
Your gait refers to the way you walk, stand and even sit. Your gait can be affected by factors associated with old age such as joint problems. Signs of disturbance include a slow and unsteady walk, loss of balance, muscle weakness and stooped posture. As all these factors may make you prone to stumbling and falling, you should consider asking your doctor to perform a balance and gait evaluation which looks at how you walk. Underlying health problems could be discovered and your healthcare professional will be able to give you some helpful pointers on how to remedy the situation.

4. Week joints and poor muscle strength
Almost 70 percent of seniors over the age of 70 suffer from osteoarthritis which can affect your joints, spinal column and ultimately your gait. If you have osteoarthritis in your knee particularly, the chances are that you lack strength in key leg and thigh muscles – all of this contributes to your unsteady balance. Consult your doctor who will be able to prescribe an assistive walking device and physical therapy exercise that could improve your muscle tone and joint health.

5. Vascular disease and mini strokes
Mini strokes are referred to medically as transient ischemic attacks and are often so small that they go unnoticed. In some cases they may result in vascular dementia. Signs of vascular dementia include taking short shuffling steps, stooping and moving one foot forward, and pausing to bring the other foot next to it. Rigidity in lower extremities is also common in vascular dementia, which will increase the instances of you falling backwards. As this cannot be picked up on brain scans, it is important to discuss these symptoms with your doctor so that he can make a correct diagnosis in addition to cognitive testing. With the aid of basic muscle training and strength exercises, you will start to feel strong and less vulnerable.

6. The wrong combination of medication
Careful consideration is needed when taking a cocktail of prescription medication as they could be a contributing factor to you losing your balance or experiencing vertigo. Sedatives, sleeping aids and psychiatric drugs are major culprits as they have side-effects that include decreasing your blood pressure, making your gait unsteady. Most falls occur in the morning or during bathroom trips during the night when your body takes longer to readjust to the difference in blood pressure.