New Fall Prevention Guidelines for Seniors

New fall prevention guidelines for Canadian seniors, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal by Osteoporosis Canada, are missing key components, according to Dr. Brian Goldman of CBC’s White Coat, Black Art.

Dr. Goldman puts forward a statistic that a senior in long-term care is four times more likely to sustain a serious fall where they have a fracture or break of the hip bone, and comments that the new guidelines may not give enough weight to diet and exercise and too much to prescription drug use because both would require more staff in a nursing home, which the guidelines are aimed mostly towards. But the guidelines do contain some helpful tips for seniors who don’t live in nursing homes as well as those who do.

High risk and low risk: What they mean

Someone is seen as at a high risk for osteoporosis if they have had fractures to the spine or hip, more than one fracture that does not include the hands, feet or ankles, or have been using a class of drugs known as glucocorticoids and have had one previous fracture that does not include the hands, feet or ankles.

Good in the new guidelines

Some of the helpful tips put forward in the new guidelines are:

Consume more calcium

Get more calcium in your diet or take supplements if you are at high risk for osteoporosis. 3 servings of dairy, according to the guidelines, are roughly equivalent to 1500 mg of calcium in the diet. Daily supplements of 500 mg daily are recommended in addition to dietary intake of calcium if you are in a high-risk group.

Take more Vitamin D

For both high-risk and low-risk groups, the new guidelines recommend daily supplements of 800-2000 IU of Vitamin D.

Get more exercise

Strength training, balance and functional training exercise was recommended for both high and low-risk groups.

Hip protectors

The guidelines suggest hip protectors for both high and low risk groups. A hip protector can be hard or soft, and are usually worn as underwear or pants. They have padding or protection on areas that are more likely to fracture if a fall occurs. They range in cost between $65 and $200 depending on the brand and model.

Preventing falls in the home

If you are a senior choosing to stay in your home, you are already preventing falls as the statistics state that you are four times more likely to fall in long-term care. However, there are a few steps you can take to make a fall less likely in the home.

  • Install non-slip surfaces and install grab bars in the tub and shower
  • Get rid of loose wires, cords and general clutter on floors
  • Install good lighting throughout the home, including night lights
  • Make sure paths are clear in high traffic areas
  • Do not go up or down stairs quickly – this is a major source of falls
  • Wipe up moisture in the bathroom and spills in the kitchen

More tips for preventing falls in the home are available on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website here.

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