Falling just one time can take away independence or even the life of an elderly loved one, which requires them to move into a nursing facility that provides extensive care. Unfortunately, falling is an all too common occurrence for seniors living at home and in assisted-living centers and nursing facilities nationwide.
Suffering a fall is often the result of changes in the elder’s muscles, bones and joints as a common occurrence in the aging process. Many times elderly citizens lose their coordination, density and bone mass as they grow older. Studies indicate that the elderly suffering muscle loss have a higher potential of falling in fracturing bones due to “sarcopenia” – the loss of muscle mass caused by the aging process.
The gradual loss of muscle mass over time tends to affect individuals as early as 30 years old. Physically inactive individuals who are 40 years or older tend to lose upwards of five percent of their muscle mass each decade. Even physically active individuals experience some muscle loss as a natural process of aging. Sarcopenia tends to rapidly accelerate when the individual reaches 75 years old although extensive muscle loss can occur as early as 65 years old or younger.
Sarcopenia Linked to Chronic Conditions
Age-associated muscle loss dramatically increases the potential of elderly citizens falling. In fact, 50 percent of all accidental deaths occurring to individuals 65 and older are directly related to falling. Sarcopenia has been interrelated to chronic conditions including obesity, type II diabetes and insulin resistance.
Bone and muscle loss has also been directly correlated to menopause when the bones lose minerals. Over time, the long bones of the legs and arms become extremely brittle and joints become stiff and rigid. Joint fluid often decreases and cartilage begins wearing away and rubbing together. The joints in the knees and hips can start losing cartilage as do the finger joints, especially in women. While a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to progression of muscle loss, it is not always the only factor. Other changes in the body can also cause sarcopenia that include:
- Changes in hormone levels
- Alteration of protein requirements
- The death of motor neutrons that are no longer able to tell muscles how and when to move
- Malnutrition can cause significant muscle wasting due to a lack of proper nutritional intake and the consumption of poor food
- Any alteration in protein intake can significantly decrease muscle mass
Increasing Muscle Mass
There is no pharmaceutical agent approved by the FDA to treat sarcopenia. However, there are measures that every elderly individual can take to protect themselves from falling. Senior citizens need to stay physically active and ensure that they move each day. This often requires engaging in resistance training as an effective way to build muscle mass and joint mobility. All exercise assist with the process of protein synthesis, improve neuron function and hormone balance.
In addition, seniors need to eat right by placing a high emphasis on the consumption of adequate protein sources, and ensure that their meals are balance. It is essential to consume enough calories every day to maintain proper weight without loss. The elder must also stay fully hydrated to ensure that the brain functions properly to send valuable neurological information through the spinal cord to muscles on how to move and when.
What Steps to Take to Help Reduce Falls
Taking proactive and preventative measures to avoid experiencing a fall is essential to the safety of the senior citizen. Creating a safe environment, always wearing properly fitted shoes and engaging in activities that are known to improve muscle mass and tone are crucial to the health and well-being of the elderly loved one. Exercise and mobility are key factors in living a longer healthier life. The elder should consider staying as active as possible every day.
Falling is the leading cause of unexpected death in nursing facilities nationwide. In many incidences, residents at nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and assisted living facilities become victims of neglect by caregivers that are overworked at facilities at are understaffed or lack proper monitoring to provide assistance to those who need it most. Sometimes, falling can occur even with the assistance of the medical staff when they lack proper training while transferring residents from a bed to a wheelchair.