Each year millions of older adults fall. A fall can be extremely detrimental, especially for an aging adult. As we age, the harder the impact our body takes from a fall, the more likely we are to experience injury such as a broken bone. According to the CDC, more than 95% of hip fractures are causes by falling and falls as the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.
According to a study done by NIH, approximately 54% of US adults over age 50 have osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become fragile from loss of tissue. Recovery from a broken bone can be long and challenging, and in some cases, when health is already severely compromised, can lead to death.
Age in itself if a risk factor for falling but there are a number of various reasons why people fall:
- Poor vision
- Poor gait/balance
- Weak muscles
- Dizziness from medication side effects
- Tripping or slipping
- Slow reflexes
- Inadequate footwear
Falls are accidents, and many are unavoidable, however, there are actions that can be taken to decrease the risk of falling. The first is keeping your body healthy and strong through physical exercise. Increasing balance, coordination, and strength will help in both avoiding falls and to reducing the risk of injury if you do fall.
There are other things you can do with your environment to prevent tripping or slipping such as:
- Keeping clutter to a minimum
- Using your assistive devices such as walkers safely
- Wearing supportive shoes with soles or skid proof bottoms
- Installing hand rails and grab bars
- Ensuring all walking areas are well lit
- Avoiding use of furniture as a means to steady yourself
- Avoiding wet or icy areas
- Quickly address and repair hazards in the home
You may also want to consider installing a personal emergency fall device in you or your loved one’s home. These devices in the event of a fall can be life-saving by summoning help immediately. The alert button can be worn on a lanyard so that is easily accessible in the event of a fall.
If you have already experienced a fall, you are 50% more likely to fall again. If you or your loved one are at risk of falling, it is a good idea to consult with a physical therapist to create an exercise program designed to decrease your risk. Talk to your doctor first about your concerns and he or she can order physical therapy and may also have other individualized recommendations to reduce your risk of falling. In-home care is another option to consider because having a caring professional in the home can help ensure you move about safely and help you perform daily tasks that could be hazardous when done on your own. Home companions regularly check in, call, and visit the older adults they care for to ensure they are healthy and safe.
About the Author: Pam Reynolds, CMC is the President and co-owner of Allegiance Aging Care Services. Pam has spent almost fifteen years working in senior care including long term care facilities and home health care. Her higher education is in Social Work, and she has been credentialed as both a certified Geriatric Care Manager and Licensed Assisted Living Administrator. Read more about Pam and her team of Aging Care Professionals here.