Let’s examine the facts about falls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an older adult falls every second of every day. More than one out of four older people fall each year, but less than half tell their doctor. And, if you have fallen once, the chances of falling again doubles. So is this a big deal? Yes – one out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury, with falls causing more than 95% of hip fractures. Over 800,000 patients per year are hospitalized due to a fall injury, with the direct medical costs for fall injuries estimated at $31 billion annually. In 2014, 27,000 older adults died as a result of falls – that is, 74 seniors every day! Many falls do not cause serious injuries, but a fall can cause a fear of falling, which can cause a decrease in everyday activities. This decrease means a person is less active, they become weaker and increase their chance of falling. Or, everyday activities become difficult, and an older adult may no longer feel safe living alone.
There are many conditions, or risk factors, that contribute to falling. These risk factors can include:
- Lower body weakness
- Vitamin D deficiency (not enough Vitamin D in your system)
- Difficulties with walking and balance
- Use of medicines, both prescribed and OTC that can affect balance and how steady you are on foot
- Vision problems
- Foot pain or poorly fitting footwear
- Home hazards such as broken, uneven steps or throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over
The good news is that falls are not just a normal part of getting older. Falls are preventable, and there are simple steps to take that can help older adults stay healthy and independent longer.
- Talk to your physician or healthcare provider about your risk of falling. This would include your pharmacist to discuss any medications that may cause dizziness. Talking to your healthcare team about taking Vitamin D supplements to improve bone, muscle, and nerve health is a great idea. Very few foods in nature contain Vitamin D; fortified foods provide most of the “D” in our diets.
- Strengthen your legs and improve your balance with activities, like Tai Chi, to help prevent falls.
- Have your vision checked once a year and update your eyeglasses if needed.
- Most accidents happen at home, so make your home safer by keeping floors free of clutter and removing small rugs. Add grab bars in the bathroom, and make sure your home has lots of light.
Falls affect us all, whether personally or with someone we know and care about. CDC has developed the STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries) initiative, which includes educational materials and tools to improve fall prevention; check out www.cdc.gov/steadi Falls don’t have to happen to you. Stay healthy, independent, and safe in your own home by “taking a stand against falls.”
Source materials retrieved from “Important Facts about Falls” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov ) page last updated 2/10/2017 and “Stay Independent: Prevent Falls” (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries [STEADI], Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.cdc.gov/steadi ) retrieved 9/2017.