When it comes to quality of life and care coordination for seniors, it’s widely acknowledged that fall prevention must be part of any preventative health measures. Not only do falls cause injuries and fatalities, but they can also affect mental health, emotional wellbeing, and senior independence.
Every fall prevention program should have the best technology elements in place, so that residents can be assured that they’re being monitored for falls. But a program also needs to help residents achieve better physical health and coordination. Lack of confidence, ironically, often leads to more hesitation when walking or climbing stairs, and that can result in more falls instead of fewer.
To help residents lower their fear of falls and get more physical skill, incorporate these exercise categories into your fall prevention program:
1. Easy Balance Routines
As people age, balance is often negatively affected. Some seniors also face balance issues because of medications, inner ear problems, and eyesight issues. There have even been associations with improper footwear and higher fall risk. Because of that, be sure to include balance exercises that are easy to do, and can be done anywhere.
For example, a senior with very low balance abilities can still do a single-leg stance—which involves standing next to a wall or countertop and using a hand to maintain balance—and then shifting weight onto one leg and holding it for 10 seconds.
2. Mindfulness Practice
With more balance ability, simple yoga poses can help to build strength while focusing on more body awareness. Just sitting in a chair, breathing deeply, eyes closed, can help seniors to be more conscious of how they might be feeling and moving.
This level of mindfulness is similar to meditation, but is more focused on relaxation. A study in Geriatric Nursing noted that mindfulness can be taught to the elderly, even those with dementia, and the results are often better social and emotional benefits. With greater awareness, better breath control, and a higher level of relaxation, falls can be prevented more easily.
3. Strength Training
In addition to impacting balance ability, age also affects muscle strength and bone health. A more sedentary lifestyle or other health issues can exacerbate this issue, leading to a high risk of falls.
Some type of strength training in a fall prevention program can help both muscles and bones, as well as coordination, especially in the legs and ankles. Although equipment like resistance bands or small dumb bells may be helpful, there are many strength training exercises for seniors that are done using only bodyweight.
For instance, a senior can do squats by standing in front of a chair, with arms outstretched in front, and slowly lower down as if about to sit. Just before actually sitting, the person stands back up. Squats can be very helpful for working major muscles in the legs, as well as the glutes and hips.
Even small changes and short classes can make a difference. A senior might try balance exercises while brushing her teeth, for example, consider doing some light barbell work during TV shows. With the blend of exercise-based strategies and technology tools, any senior care community can lower the risk of falls among residents.