Tis the season for increased falls for the elderly


Fall in New England brings an assortment of colors, cool crisp air and the smell of apple pie baking in the oven. Along with these, there is also a decrease in temperature, shorter days and increased darkness, both inside and out. These conditions, combined with more obvious factors, such as ice, slippery wet leaves and snow, lead to increased falls for the elderly. Why is this?

Colder temperatures are a deterrent to the elderly being active. They stay inside more, which translates into decreased activity and muscle strength.

The sun rises later and sets earlier, which means it’s darker longer in the home. As people age, the pupil becomes smaller and less responsive to variations in light; therefore, it becomes harder to see in dim light.

As seasons change, so does the amount of friends and family coming to visit. Until Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, the elderly often become more isolated and solitary.

Slipping on ice and snow is one of the main reasons for hospitalization for the elderly, which may result in a hip, spine, leg or arm fracture.

How can falls be prevented? Here are some simple yet effective ways of helping elderly people avoid falls.

1. Do strength-bearing exercises such as:

a. During commercials, get out of the chair, then sit in it again. Do this as many times as you can for the length of a commercial.

b. When you are standing, do calf raises. Stand with your feet flat on the ground. Raise yourself up by lifting your heels off the ground. Go as high onto your toes as you can. Be sure to balance yourself on a counter or back of a sturdy chair to avoid balance issues and falls!

2. Install lamp timers and adjust the time so they come on earlier. It’s better to wake up to the light than to fall in the dark.

3. Make sure sidewalks and driveways are clear of snow or ice. Proper footwear for different conditions may help.

4. If you believe your loved one may feel more comfortable with you closer, put your arm around her/him and let them know how valued they are.

Because of the decrease in light and change in activity levels, many seniors are at an increased risk of falling. A Geriatric Care Manager is able to identify areas of risk, recommend environmental safety changes and give suggestions for additional supports, if needed, that help provide a safe living environment for your loved one.

For more information: contact Geriatric Care Manager Jane E. Korb, M.A., CCM, at jkorb3@gmail.com.