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Reducing the Risk of Falls: Visually Impaired Older Adults

The risk of falling at home is increased drastically by vision problems.

What is the source?

In society’s older population, the leading cause of death due to unintentional injuries can be attributed to falls. Many factors contribute to fall risks, particularly visual impairment. Fear of falling and balance issues also play a role. Sadly, some healthcare providers tend to underestimate the impact vision loss has on an individual’s ability to function, and, therefore, the impact on quality of life. Unrecognized and underdiagnosed visual impairments lead to falls and, thus, physical issues. Some of the most common causes for tripping and falling result from lack of attention to one’s surroundings and misjudging distances or angles. Numerous studies have shown that older adults with visual impairment, likewise, have significant mobility deficits. The correlation is obvious.

What can we do?

What can we do to combat such a common problem within the home of an elderly loved one? Standard fall prevention education directly addresses environmental safety. It is paramount that home health care clinicians evaluate risk factors continually. Clear pathways and adequate lighting may seem like simple remedies, but they are two of the most important components to consider. However, behavioral changes must also be made. This includes integrating adaptive equipment that may be installed in the home. When used appropriately, this may manage “physiologic factors” that increase the risk of falling. Physiologic factors can be identified as disease-specific conditions, side effects of medicines, and lifestyle behaviors that may impair mobility and/or balance.

Altogether, the home care team should assess a patient’s current behavior and address potential problems ongoingly. Furthermore, home vision exams may be demonstrated by the clinicians. Lighting adjustments should be made accordingly. Some may choose to implement a voice activated “virtual home assistant” (i.e., Amazon Echo). Correspondingly, smart lighting may be useful.

Technology is ever advancing, and, one day, perhaps we will have a definite countermeasure. Until then, the home care provider should work to utilize these techniques.

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