Each year, millions of adults, age 65 and older, experience a fall. Falls cause moderate to severe injuries, including hip fractures, lacerations and head traumas, and can increase the risk of early death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear causes a person to limit their activities, leading to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, which increases their risk of falling.
Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries. Fractures are the most common injury including fractures of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm and hand. To protect your mobility and independence minimize your risk for falls both at home or in the hospital using these steps.
Who is at risk?
Age is the single biggest risk factor for falls. Older people have the highest risk of death or serious injuring falling with your risk increasing as you age. This increased risk may be in part due to physical, sensory and cognitive changes associated with aging, in combination with environments that are not adapted for an aging population.
Additional risk factors include:
- Underlying medication conditions, such as neurological, cardiac or other disabling conditions
- Side effects of medications, physical inactivity and loss of balance
- Poor mobility, cognition and vision
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Socioeconomic factors, including poverty, overcrowded housing, sole parenthood
- One out of three older adults (aged 65 and older) falls each year but less than half notify their primary care physician about this.
- In 2013, 2.5 million nonfatal falls among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 734,000 of these patients were hospitalized.
What can I do to prevent a fall at home?
- Exercise Regularly
Focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medications
Both prescription and over-the-counter-to identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness
- Get your eyes checked
Have an eye doctor examine your eyes at least once a year and update their eye glasses to maximize their vision
- Make your home safer
Reduce trip hazards by removing clutter, add handrails inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, add nonslip mats to the tub or shower, secure loose rugs, keep necessities within easy reach
- Wear sensible shoes
Well fitting, low heeled, rubber soled shoes can help you keep your footing
- Keep things well lit
Make sure you can see clearly at all times, add nightlights to your bedroom and bathroom, store flashlights where they’re easy to reach, turn on the lights before going up or down the stairs
What can I do to prevent a fall at the hospital?
The risk of falling increases in the hospital because patients are in an unfamiliar environment, have an acute illness, have had surgery, are on bed rest and/or are on numerous medications and treatments.
- Ask for help to get out of bed and whenever you are going to walk, especially if you are not feeling well
- Use your call button
- Ask for help with toileting
- Ask for a cane, walker or other device to make walking safer
- Ask a family member or friend to bring in your glasses or hearing aid so that you can better participate in your care
- Check for a clear and safe path before you walk
- If you feel unsteady or unbalanced on your feet, call for help and sit down again
To schedule any of these programs, please call the Trauma Injury Prevention & Outreach Coordinator at 864-560-6839.