Elderly Fall Causes

3 things that put your loved one at risk for a fall
Puppy in bed

Falling is a special risk for older adults, owing to increasing problems with vision and mobility. Older adults may also have the added burden of problems with depth perception and judgment, and they may shuffle their feet as their brain and body begin to have trouble coordinating signals.

The following three overlooked situations often contribute to falling:


Fall Cause #1: The wrong shoes

Just as you check your car tires, it's important to check the treads of the shoes worn by a person with dementia. The safest shoes have rough, not smooth, soles that get better traction on surfaces such as linoleum. Ask a shoe repair shop to add traction strips to smooth-soled favorites. Just be careful not to err in the direction of heavy lug soles as seen on certain hiking boots or walking shoes. Treads that are too big and deep get caught on things and can cause tripping.

Fall Cause #2: Pets

They're cute, they're friendly -- and, often, they're underfoot. Small animals may not be seen by someone with less-than-perfect vision. Active animals may dart in the path of a walker with slowed reaction time. And pets tend to age along with their owners, sometimes choosing to snooze literally under the person's foot.

Animals make terrific social companions and are worth encouraging, so long as you can monitor them. It may be necessary to remove a pet from a loved one's area at certain times of the day, or to watch the situation and issue verbal warnings when your loved one is rising from a chair. Make sure long leashes are detached after walks and not left trailing. Also take care to keep a pet's toys or chew bones out of pathways around the house.

Fall Cause #3: Medications

All drugs have side effects, but some are linked more strongly to falls than others. Common culprits in older adults: drugs containing sedatives and benzodiazepines (Ativan, Xanax), as well as antidepressants. Over-the-counter sleep aids, cough and cold medications, and allergy pills can also cause the disorientation and balance problems that raise the risk of falls. Taking four or more different drugs is itself a risk factor for falls. It's smart to have one's complete list of meds reviewed annually by a doctor so that unnecessary or problematic drugs can be changed or stopped.


5 months ago, said...

I fell wearing Crocs. - those comfortable rubbery sandals type shoes. They can hang up on carpet. It felt like someone had grabbed my foot and wouldn't let go. The forward momentum I had caused me to fall front first. As I was going down I was calculating how much more I weighed than when I fell on a construction site and broke my arm twenty years earlier. I knew not to stick my arm out to try to break my fall. But landed on my side sort of and broke my other arm slightly between the shoulder and elbow. When I googled Crocs, "tripping hazard" came up with it.


about 2 years ago, said...

There is a company online, GOLDVIOLIN, appears they partner up with Blair. I took a quick look, in response to someone's question here about footwear. And I was quite impressed by their shoes, socks, and other items designed specially to help our older loved ones cope better, walk better, and feel more confident in the world. Maybe this could be a source for the specific shoes you asked about?


about 2 years ago, said...

Particularly Item 3 Medications


about 2 years ago, said...

I have discovered one terrific idea a nurse neighbor suggested: Mom's apartment is often cool, even in the summer, so she likes to wear socks. Her living room floors are wood, very high sheen, with tiles in the kitchen. So, I bought her several pairs of jazzy, bold colored socks. They've got small circle 'treads' on the bottom. She loves the 'fashion statement', plus her feet stay warm. Most importantly: she walks confidently across the slickest floor surface, even if she gets out of bed at night to use the bathroom, (a time she may not be fully awake). Like those non slip floral decals, on the bottom of the bathtub, these socks serve an extremely useful purpose - they make sure that loved ones, with not such great eyesight, or balance - can maneuver a bit more safely!


almost 3 years ago, said...

The shoe issue is a good suggestion. Do medical supply companies offer appropriate shoes? and let's not forget the wide feet issue!


almost 3 years ago, said...

I had not thought to check sole of shoes for traction. Good info. Sometimes we caregivers are so overwhelmed, we forget the obvious.


about 3 years ago, said...

The problem with shoes with rubber soles is they catch on carpeting and can cause stumbling and falling. This has happened to my mother several times. So we have to get smooth bottomed shoes.


almost 4 years ago, said...

I can not get my mother to let me put away the throw rugs she has scattered throughout her house. Any suggestions?


almost 4 years ago, said...

I was recently at a discussion that talked about the same issues for falls. What I have learned with my mom and her condition is that she is at great risk of falling. She has no motivation to exercise for preventative falls. She is very unstable and I am afraid she will fall. What is comforting to me is I have a mobility device called the ResQUp which allows my mom to safely get up off the floor without posing any injury to me. At this discussion I learned that there is no safe way to lift a person. Recommendations from NIOSH state not to lift over 35 pounds. My mom can use this device while maintaining dignity without having to call 911 while preserving my back. This helps mom and me. Now if I can only get her to exercise.


almost 4 years ago, said...

I found this to be very helpful. Thanks for sharing it!


almost 4 years ago, said...

Although I am not commenting on the above, im sureCarers will like to hear what I need to say about UTI's in the elderly. My Mum recently lost my dad (berievement right away) confusion, disorientation, because the days are not the same with my dad in them and Yes he played a senior part in all of our lives especially Mums, she .Married for 60 years and then Dad gone under horrible circumstances, which she witnessed, which she shut out. Over the months Mum become confused, disoriented and went back in time. On her Mini Mental State Exam, because I was concerned about her physical health, she was back in 1987, although some individuals go back further, I needed action. Range GP, very good, came, assessed, but assessed with Mental Health Assessment. I knew my Mum either was depressed or had a UTI. With my persistance,she was started on an antibiotic before her urine sample went to hospital to wait a further few days, thenthe infection could take control, fortunately, this did not happen, she was started on trimethoprin, I know my MUM and I know what infection can do in the elderly, we did not wait for the sample to come back from the lab because I could tell from the colour of the urine and what was in it. Thankfully our GP was great, he knew my Mum also and she was not presenting how she should. Seven days later, I have to say, My Mum is back in the real world, not 1987 but 2012 and she said it, when asked of her, as if I was stupid..That is great though, My mum does not havej ? dementia, only an infection or urinery tract, well for the moment. Grief is a traumatic thing after all those years together. Just pray this is only an infection....... I know it will come but I hopefully will be more prepared to look after her.....


almost 4 years ago, said...

the part about medications which was something i had not given thought to but the rest has been dealt with and correctly.


almost 4 years ago, said...

These were good hints - as are the ones in the comments. I also found for my own mom that she was more secure in sneaker type shoes that were not too high - some running shoes have a fairly thick heel.and slight forward angle. I think that she felt more secure when she could feel unevenness in the ground.


almost 4 years ago, said...

My sister and I both have a problem with balance because of back injuries and osteoarthritis. This column has given me some good tips to help make falls preventable. Thanks for the information.


almost 4 years ago, said...

Yes, I have noticed that cats have a tendency to walk across my path, putting me in danger to fall or to hurt them by stepping on them. I believe they do this to gain my attention but I really dislike this strategy of theirs, to prevent it, I heve to make my steps firmer when they are around to make sure I can toss them away. Once they pass, I will not replace them.


almost 4 years ago, said...

My dad just had that happen. He'd just gotten out of the hospital where all he wore was slippers and had not yet transitioned back to wearing his regular shoes when he went out to his garage and sure enough they slipped out from under him causing him to fall. Needless to say, we put them away and got his shoes out!


almost 4 years ago, said...

It has helped me so far so good. I have not fallen down so far. I take daily walks and have not fallen down.


almost 4 years ago, said...

All three are very real issues in senior's mobility. I also would like to add, light and dark colors. I noticed that my dad who had very poor eyesight, thought that a dark stain in my garage floor was a drop in height when waking through the garage. I had to help him and remind him that he was not taking a step down, it was a flat surface. I bought a pressure washer and some soap and removed the stain to help getting him back and forth. Using the front or back door was not an option as the front door had 7 steps vs. only 2 steps going through the garage. I did check their shoes for traction and had to hide one pair, didn't know that I could get a shoe repair shop to put on non-skid strips to shoe, good information to keep in mind. Thanks for the information.


almost 4 years ago, said...

Having done recent studies on falling for the elderly, medications that often cause side effects is by far a more significant cause of falling. The other cause, which was not listed, is usually an unsafe environment. This includes scatter (or area) rugs, unclear paths within a home, clutter, etc. Not once did I come across an elderly person's shoes as a reason for falling. This is a good point. Many elderly wear slippers in the home, which may not be properly fitted, and may not have slip-resistent soles.