Chances are, you or an older adult you know has had a fall. Each year, more than 1 out of 4 people ages 65 and older fall. Furthermore, emergency departments treat 3 million seniors for injuries from falls each year.
Falling is the leading cause of accidents, serious injuries, and accidental deaths in older adults. Falls should be taken seriously when they occur, as they can be a major threat to seniors’ health and independence. Understandably, falling is a common fear for many seniors, even if they have never fallen before. However, falls do not have to be inevitable with age. There are many ways to prevent or reduce an older adult’s chance of falling.
Causes of Falls
According to The National Institute on Aging, a number of factors can lead to a fall, including certain health conditions and environmental risks. Some risk factors include:
- Weakened eyesight, hearing, reflexes, and balance
- Certain health conditions that impair balance, such as diabetes, heart disease and thyroid issues
- Mild cognitive problems and some types of dementia
- Loss of muscle mass, also known as sarcopenia
- Lowered blood pressure after sitting or standing up quickly, also known as postural hypotension
- Vitamin D or calcium deficiency
- Unsafe footwear, such as high heels, backless shoes or shoes without traction
- Certain medications with possible side effects of dizziness or confusion
- Safety hazards inside and outside of the home, such as uneven steps and clutter
A combination of these factors causes the majority of falls. The more risk factors someone has, the greater their probability of having a fall.
Repercussions of Falls
While some falls do not cause harm, others can seriously impact a senior’s health and lifestyle. In fact, according to the CDC, 1 in 5 falls lead to serious injuries and bone fractures, with at least 300,000 seniors being hospitalized for hip fractures per year. Falls are also the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Having one fall doubles your chances of having another.
Not only can falls cause serious health repercussions, but they can also be costly. The CDC states that senior falls result in $50 billion in medical costs each year, with 75% being covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Furthermore, according to the National Council on Aging, the financial toll is projected to increase to over $101 billion by 2030 as the population gets older.
Additionally, falling can lead to another significant consequence: the fear of falling. Oftentimes this fear causes seniors to avoid certain daily activities, including walking, running errands, and socializing with others. Avoidance of these activities can greatly reduce a senior’s quality of life. However, it is these activities and others that encourage movement, keep the body in good physical condition, and actually help prevent falls in the long run.
Prevention of Falls
While it is impossible to prevent all falls, it is possible to reduce the chance of having a serious fall by taking the following actions:
- Stay physically active. Exercise frequently to strengthen your muscles, maintain flexibility in your joints and ligaments, and slow bone loss caused by osteoporosis.
- Engage in balance training. Yoga, pilates and Tai Chi are effective ways to exercise and improve your balance and flexibility.
- Make your home safer and fall-proof. Remove clutter, rugs, and cords that could be tripping hazards. Install grab bars near the shower and toilet, and have non-slip mats in the bathroom and shower. Make sure the stairs have handrails and that the house has ample lighting. Keep frequently-used items in cabinets within reach so you do not have to use a step stool.
- Have your hearing and vision checked at least once a year. Even the slightest changes in hearing and sight are linked to an increased fall risk. If you wear eyeglasses, make sure they are up to date.
- Talk to your doctor. Your doctor can evaluate your risk of falling, check your blood pressure, review your medications for potential dizziness side effects, and recommend certain supplements if needed.
- Get enough sleep. Being tired makes you more likely to have a fall. It is recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
- Avoid or limit alcohol. Too much alcohol consumption can lead to balance issues and falls.
- Use a cane or walker. These assistive devices can help steady you when you walk. Make sure your cane or walker is the right size for you and the wheels roll smoothly.
- Take extra caution in wet conditions. Consider staying indoors in these conditions as a precaution. Take advantage of the delivery services offered by many grocery stores and pharmacies instead.
- Choose safe footwear. For full foot support, wear non-skid, rubber soled shoes with low heels. Do not walk around in socks or slippers without traction.
When you or a loved one have a fall, it can reveal or trigger the need for additional support. Whether you are looking for support in a residential senior community or are seeking in-home care services, Florida Senior Consulting can help.
Our certified staff and licensed nurse advocates will find you the care you need to lead a healthy lifestyle, stay safe and lower your risk of falls and injuries. With this peace of mind ultimately comes a better quality of life.
Call us today at (941) 661-6196 to talk to an expert about your individual situation, needs and preferences. We will find you the care you need to live your best life.