Fall-prevention Measures Can Keep Older Adults Independent

Falls account for nearly one-third of all non-fatal injuries in the U.S., according to Injury Facts, the source for statistical data on unintentional injuries created by the National Safety Council.

For some, falls result in hurt feelings, skinned knees or broken bones. For others, falls can signal the beginning of lifestyle changes – or even lead to death.

Because the natural aging process can affect vision, strength and balance, adults 65 and older are at elevated risk for falls, however falls are not a natural part of aging and can be prevented.

Every 20 minutes an older adult dies from a fall, and many more are injured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC data indicates:

  • More than one in four older adults falls every year; fewer than half tell their doctor
  • 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments each year for fall injuries
  • More than 800,000 patients are hospitalized each year because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture

Growing older doesn’t have to mean a loss of independence. By planning ahead and envisioning the future you want, you can identify simple steps that can make a big difference – here are some resources to help:

Talk to Your Doctor

Talking to your doctor is the first step in figuring out your personal fall risk and what changes you can make to be safer. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review you prescriptions and over-the-counter medications regularly, paying attention to tranquillizers, sedatives and antidepressants. Some medicines on their own or when combined with other medicines can affect balance and cause drowsiness, dizziness or a feeling of being light-headed. Vitamin D deficiency can increase fall risk.

During a regular exam, be sure to check for foot pain and proper footwear. Have your vision tested on an annual basis.

Walking aids can mean the difference between safely navigating your world or experiencing a fall doing what you love. Don’t be shy about talking to your doctor or physical therapist about the right device for you – including finding the proper fit.

Make Your Home Safer

While falls can occur anywhere, they most often occur at home. Try these tips to make your home safer:

  • Remove clutter, small furniture, pet gear, electrical cords, throw rugs and anything else that might cause someone to trip
  • Arrange or remove furniture so there is plenty of room for walking
  • Add grab bars inside and outside of your bathtub or shower and next to the toilet
  • Put railings on both sides of the stairs, and make sure stairs and hallways have good lighting
  • Make sure outdoor areas are well lit and walkways are smooth and free of puddles/ice

While we all are aging every day, fall do not have to be a part of that process. Understanding fall risks is the first step to keeping our loved ones and ourselves safe.