The daily routine of stepping out of the shower may seem simple enough, but for an older adult it can be fraught with hesitation and fear. The bathroom is the most common place for people to lose their balance and fall. And falls can lead to serious, life-changing injuries.
“Some people fall and suffer only minor scrapes and bruises, but many times falls can lead to blunt head trauma or hip fractures,” says Dr. Lisa Gibbs, medical director of the UC Irvine Health Senior Health Services.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in three adults aged 65 and older falls each year. People with arthritis, a history of stroke or other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease are at higher risk for falls.
Even if you are healthy, several factors associated with aging — such as arthritis, cataracts, imbalance and deconditioning — may combine to make older adults more susceptible to falls.
Evaluation for fall risk
Physician Assistant Valerie George sees patients at the SeniorHealth Center, where she evaluates older adults who are at risk for falls.
During the visits, she reviews their list of medications to make sure they’re not causing dizziness or changes in balance, checks patients’ blood pressure and checks their strength and balance.
Fall-proofing the home
George also talks to her patients and caregivers about the importance of evaluating the risk of falls in their home.
“The bathroom is one of the most common places where seniors fall because they tend to grab on to towel racks or nearby counters that don’t support their weight,” George says.
If you are worried about falling in the bathroom, consider installing grab bars inside and outside the shower so you can get in and out with ease.
Other simple adjustments include:
- Removing loose rugs or objects
- Training pets to keep some distance when walking beside you
Both Gibbs and George recommend the use of medical alert systems, particularly for older people who live alone.
For more information about fall prevention, contact the UC Irvine Health Senior Health Services at 714-456-7007.