A surprising number of conditions, from simple to serious, can cause an older adult to fall.
If you observed the fall or arrived soon after, find out if your loved one had a warning or felt dizzy beforehand. Any chance he or she fainted? Was the fall from stumbling on an obstacle? Or more from missing the bottom step on the stairs? These important clues can be useful to the doctor.
Even if there are no injuries, it’s wise to see the primary care provider and ask him or her to review
- Medications. Many common drugs have the side effect of dizziness. This includes medications for sleep, pain, and anxiety, as well as some antidepressants. If diabetes is poorly managed, that can cause dizziness. Faulty blood pressure medication dosing can also be at the root of a tumble.
- Sitting vs. standing blood pressure. Some people experience a sudden drop in blood pressure when they stand. This could have led to your relative’s dizziness or fainting.
- Possible infections. In many older adults, a urinary tract infection or even pneumonia can develop without the “usual” symptoms. These can cause weakness or dizziness. Lab tests are needed for diagnosis and treatment.
- Physical pain. Something as simple as painful joints or tight-fitting shoes can cause a change in gait or sudden shift in weight from one side to the other, leading to poor balance and a fall.
- Vision. Cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration impair vision. Any of these may cause an older adult to overlook a trip hazard.
- Potential significant conditions. It’s important to rule out conditions of the heart, brain, and circulatory system that can result in a fall. For example, a mini-stroke, atrial fibrillation, or Parkinson’s.
- Home safety. Ask for a home visit by an occupational therapist to identify any trip hazards and make recommendations.