Falls and Accidents
Falls and accidents do not “just happen”. Most of the times the situation for an
accident waits to happen and thus can be prevented. Falls have disastrous consequences
in old age. They cause injury, fracture and limit one’s ability to lead an active,
independent life. Thousands of older men and women are disabled, often permanently,
due to falls that lead to fractures. Even the fear of fall can be equally disabling
However, it is possible to prevent falls and injuries by undertaking simple changes
in the surrounding environment and following safe practices.
Causes of fall in old age
- Changes in vision, hearing, muscle strength, co-ordination and reflexes make older
people vulnerable to falls. In addition, diseases of the heart, brain, bones and
joints, thyroid and diabetes may affect the balance and gait. Multiple drugs for
these illnesses can also result in dizziness, blackouts and falls.
- Most falls occur in bedroom and bathroom due to lack of proper lighting, slippery
floors, books and papers on the floor and minor obstacles in the environment.
Prevention of falls and accidents
There are several simple steps which can reduce the likelihood of falls and accidents
and make our home and environment safe.
- Discuss with your doctor regarding the side-effects of the medicines you are taking
and whether they affect your co-ordination or balance. Ask him to suggest ways to
reduce the possibilities of falling.
- Alcohol can affect the balance and reflexes; therefore limit alcohol intake especially
- Be careful while getting up too quickly after eating, waking up from sleep, lying
down, or resting for long periods. The blood pressure may decline rapidly and cause
dizziness and fall
- Use a cane, walking stick, or walker to help maintain balance on uneven or unfamiliar
ground or if you sometimes feel dizzy. Use special caution in walking outdoors on
- Wear supportive, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes. Avoid wearing smooth-soled shoes
or slippers on stairs or slippery floors.
- Maintain a regular programme of exercise. Regular physical activity improves strength
and muscle tone, which will help in moving about more easily by keeping the joints,
tendons and ligaments more flexible. Mild weight-bearing activities may even reduce
the loss of bone due to osteoporosis.
The home should be made safe by ensuring:
- Good lighting in staircases, corridors and bathrooms;
- Easily reached light switches, telephones and objects of everyday use;
- Handrails and grab bars in staircase and bathroom;
- Properly designed floor in bathroom to prevent accumulation of water and slippery
- Electrical cords and telephone wires placed out of walking paths;
- beds and chairs at proper height to get into and out of easily; and
- Outdoor steps and walkways in good repair.
- Burns are common in older people and very disabling in the aged whose recovery is
extremely slow. Risk of burns can be reduced by some simple measures.
- Motor vehicle accidents are among the common causes of accidental death in older
- Those who drive motor vehicles must be aware that the ability to drive may be impaired
by age-related changes, such as increased sensitivity to glare, poorer adaptation
to darkness, iminished co-ordination and slower reaction time. These impairments
can be compensated by driving at slow speed, driving less often, and driving less
at night and during rush hours.
While using public transportation:
- Remain alert and brace yourself when a bus is slowing down or turning.
- Watch for slippery pavement and other hazards when entering or leaving a vehicle.
- Have the fare ready to prevent losing your balance while fumbling for change.
- Do not carry too many packages, and leave one hand free to grasp the railings
- Cross the street slowly and carefully, preferably at an authorized crossing.
- Allow extra time to cross streets, especially in bad weather.
- At night wear light-coloured clothing and carry a flashlight.