Every year, millions of people over the age of 65 fall, and many often don’t tell their doctors which is unfortunate because studies say if you fall one time, your chances of falling again are doubled.
Falls are costly and severe, with one out of five causing severe injuries such as broken hips, head injuries, and bone fractures. According to an article in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2015), over 95% of broken hips are related to falling. The total medical expenses attributed to falling were over 50 billion dollars, with Medicare and Medicaid covering ¾ of the cost.
Many times these falls are preventable. Older adults must practice FALL PREVENTION!
The risks associated with falling often make it very difficult for a person to accomplish their activities of daily living (ADLs) or to get around or live alone. Many older adults take blood thinners, making falling even more dangerous and possibly leading to internal bleeding or death. A doctor should be seen immediately, even if you think the person did not get hurt. They may have a head injury or internal bleeding. Many older adults don’t like to talk about fall risks in fear of being a burden or refusal to accept the limitations of aging.
Some individuals become so afraid of falling that they decrease their activity levels, leading them to become weaker, increasing their risk of falling even more. But don’t let your fear of falling stop you from being active. You can overcome this fear by becoming informed. Get together with a family member or a buddy when gardening, walking, shopping, or other social activities. Facing and overcoming the fear of falling can keep you healthier.
What Conditions Increase Your Fall Risk?
Note** Many of the following risk factors can be modified to help prevent falls.
- Weakness in the legs
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Difficulties with balance when walking
- Use of medicines, such as sleeping agents, antidepressants, and tranquilizers. Some OTC (over-the-counter) medications can affect your balance, such as antihistamines, cold and flu remedies, and sleeping agents.
- Poor vision.
- Improper footwear and foot pain.
- Construction issues such as steps.
- Clutter and rugs that can cause a trip and fall.
- Confusion can sometimes increase the risk of falling. It is essential to ask for help! Make sure you are all the way awake after sleeping before getting out of bed.
- A combination of any of the above.
Fall Prevention Measures
- Ask your physician to administer a fall risk assessment.
- Go over your medications with your pharmacist, including OTCs, to let you know if any cause dizziness or drowsiness.
- Ask your healthcare provider or primary care doctor about a supply of vitamin D supplements.
- Practice balancing and strengthening exercises to improve your balance and make your legs stronger.
- Make sure to have your vision checked regularly, and keep your eyeglass prescription up to date. Beware of progressive and bifocal lenses because they can make things seem farther away or closer. Consider getting a pair of glasses specifically for walking outdoors, such as only having a distance prescription.
- Limit your intake of alcohol. Even drinking a small amount of an alcoholic beverage can affect your reflexes and balance, especially in older adults.
- Slowly stand up. Quickly rising can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure that can make you feel unsteady or wobbly. Check your blood pressure standing and regularly lying if you think you are a fall risk.
- If you have a family member in the hospital or a nursing home, make sure they wear a fall risk bracelet and that the staff is aware.
- Get the whole family involved in preventing a fall for one of your family members. Some younger children only need to know that leaving that one toy on the floor can cause a serious injury to Grandma or Grandpa.
- Wear rubber-soled, non-skid, low-heeled supportive footwear. The soles of your shoes mustn’t be too thick or thin. DON’T walk up the stairs in your socks or slippers!
- Keep telephone and electrical cords away from any walking areas.
- Make sure you have large area rugs and that your carpets are firmly secured on the floor.
- Pay attention to how you arrange your furniture so that objects and coffee tables are not in your walking space.
- Make sure your chairs and couches are the right height for you to sit and lay on and get out of easily.
- Don’t walk on a wet floor.
- Keep your remote control and other necessities close by.
- It may seem obvious, but many people fall while standing on a chair and trying to reach something over their head. There are special grabbers at most medical supply stores or online.
- If you are a fall risk, do not use stepping stools! Ask for help.
- Watch out for tripping over your pets. Stay keen on their whereabouts at all times.
- Keep large print emergency numbers in several places and your cell.
Add safety devices to your home environments:
- Grab bars
- Shower chairs
- Bright lights
- Place carpet, non-skid strips or mats, on all surfaces that may get wet.
- Remember to use night lights.
- Keep a light next to your bed.
- Keep a flashlight handy if the power goes out and you have to get up.
What to do if you Fall
Whether you are out and about or at home, a sudden fall can be scary and upsetting. If you fall, do your best to stay as calm as possible. Take some deep breaths and stay still on the floor for a few minutes until the shock of falling passes. Assess any pain to see if you are hurt before you try to get up. Getting up too fast can worsen an injury.
KEEP YOUR CELL PHONE ON YOU OR HAVE A PANIC BUTTON
- If you feel like you can get up safely, roll onto your side, and rest for another moment to adjust your blood pressure and body.
- Slowly rise on your hands and knees and crawl to a stable and sturdy piece of furniture, such as a chair. Make sure it is not a chair that moves in any way. Some people think they can balance themselves on a chair to have it swivel and cause another injury.
- Place both hands on the seat of the chair and slide one of your feet forward so that it is all the way flat on the floor while keeping your other knee bent and on the floor still.
- Next, slowly lift yourself from the kneeling position and turn yourself to sit in the chair.
- If you are too injured to get up by yourself, call 911, ask for help. If you are by yourself, do your best to get comfortable and wait for help to come.