Four Things To Prevent Falls

Falls are common and costly, especially if you are over 65 and older.  Most falls are preventable and you can take steps to avoid the risk of a fall and to stay safe and independent longer. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that if you are an older adult (age 65+), you have a 1 in 4 chance of suffering a fall this year.  This makes falls the leading cause of injury and injury death in this age group and a public health concern, particularly among the aging population.

CDC Facts About Older Adult Falls

  • About 36 million falls are reported among older adults each year – resulting in more than 32,000 deaths.
  • Each year, about 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments for a fall injury.
  • One out of every five falls causes an injury, such as broken bones or a head injury.
  • Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling – usually by falling sideways.
  • Women fall more often than men and account for  three-quarters of all hip fractures.

Many falls can be prevented.  By making some changes, you can lower your chances of falling.  The CDC’s website, Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries) makes the following recommendations to help reduce falls:

  1. Talk openly with your healthcare provider about fall risks & prevention
    Tell your provider right away if you fall, worry about falling, or feel unsteady.  Have your doctor or pharmacist review all of the medicines you take, even over-the-counter medicines.  As you get older, they way medicines work in your body can change.  Some medicines, can make you sleepy or dizzy and cause you to fall.  Ask your doctor what you can do to improve bone, muscle and nerve health.
  1. Exercise to improve your balance and your strength.
    Exercise that improve balance and make your legs stronger, lower your chances of falling.  It also helps you feel better and more confident.  An example of this kind of exercise is Tai Chi.  Lack of exercise leads to weakness and increases your chance of falling.  Speak to your healthcare provider and ask what the best type of exercise program is for you. 
  1. Have your eyes and feet checked. 
    Once a year, check with your eye doctor, and update your eyeglasses, if needed.  You may have a condition like glaucoma or cataracts that affects your vision.  Poor vision can also increase your chances of failing.  Also, have your healthcare provider check your feet once a year.  Discuss proper footwear, and ask whether seeing a foot specialist is advised.
  1. Make your home safer. 
    Here are some suggestions from the CDC that you can easily do in your home to keep you from falling.
  • Remove things you can trip over (like papers, books, cloths, and shoes) from stairs and places where you walk.
  • Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep rugs from slipping.
  • Keep items you use often in cabinets you can reach easily without using a step stool.
  • Have grab bars put in next to and inside the tub, and next to the toilet.
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
  • Improve the lighting in your home.  As you get older, you need brighter lights to see well.  Hang light-weight curtains or shades to reduce glare.
  • Have handrails and lights installed on all staircases.
  • Wear well-fitted shoes with good support inside and outside the house.

Contact your local community or senior center for information on exercise, fall prevention programs, or options to improve home safety.

For additional information – Look at this Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults 

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