Every year over 1.6 million older adults go to the emergency department for fall related injuries. The risk of falling increases with age. Falls are the main cause of fractures, loss of independence, hospital admissions and death.
Hip fractures are the most common and serious type fall related injuries. Only half of older adults hospitalized with hip fractures can return home and live on their own afterwards.
The fear of falling causes older adults to avoid physical activities, such as, walking and exercise. However, physical activity can help prevent falls. If you’re concerned with falling, speak to your doctor about physical therapy. Physical therapy can help improve balance, maintain physical health and prevent falls.
Don’t keep it a Secret!
If you fall, discuss this with your doctor, even if you’re not hurt. Falls can be a sign of a medical problem that should be addressed, such as changes in blood pressure, diabetes, eyesight or side effects from medications.
Risk Factors and Causes
A risk factor is something that increases a person’s susceptibility to a medical problem. As risk factor’s increase, so does a person’s risk of falling. Many causes of falls are health issues or safety hazards in the person’s environment.
Postural hypotension – Blood pressure that drops too much when you get up form a lying or sitting position. This can cause dizziness, which can increase the risk of falling. Dehydration, medications, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease or infections may cause postural hypotension.
Foot Problems and unsafe footwear can cause falling. Slippers, back-less shoes, and high-heels are all unsafe footwear that can cause risks of falls.
Vision problems and poor lighting in the home can also lead to falls.
Falls can definitely be prevented. Steps to reduce the risks of falls are:
Make personal changes with your physical well being.
Talk with your doctor about your risks for falling and if you have or almost fallen. Your doctor may refer your to a physical therapists
Be physically active- Physical activity strengthens muscles and increases endurance. Your balance may improve with exercise and decrease the chances of falling.
Have your vision checked
Have your blood pressure checked while lying and sitting.
Choose safe footwear
Have medications reviewed
Get enough sleep-Being tired can cause risk of falls
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Even a small amount can effect your balance and reflexes
Make changes in your home – HOME SAFETY:
Remove safety hazards-An important step in fall prevention is to remove any items that can cause you to trip or slip while walking such as furniture, electrical or phone cords and rugs.
Make sure carpet is secured to floor and stairs. Rugs should be removed or secured with double-sided tape
Avoid wet floors and clean up spills right away
Avoid going out on ice or snow alone.
Make sure there is good lighting with light switches at the top and bottom of stairs and each end of hallway
Put night lights and light switches close to bed
Install handrails and grab bars
Have handrails on both sides of stairs and make sure they are secure.
Mount grab bars near toilets and inside and outside of your tub and shower
Move items to make easier to reach
Don’t stand on a chair to reach something that’s too high. Use a “reacher” instead. Reachers are special grabbing tools that can be purchased at medical supply stores. If using a step stool, make sure it is stable with a handrail on top.
Keep things that you regularly use in reach.
Use assisted devices or walking aids
Appropriate use of canes, walkers and reachers can prevent falls. A physical or occupational therapist can decide which device will fit your needs and how to use them appropriately. Talk with your physician about having a physical or occupational therapist access your needs.
You may want to consider purchasing a home monitoring system. This consists of a button on a chain worn around your neck. If you fall or need emergency help, you just push the button to alert the service. To find local medical alarm companies please refer to our resource page.
Maintain and improve your bone health
You can prevent fractures by maintaining bone strength. Bone strength won’t prevent falls but it can prevent hip and other fractures, disabilities or death. Consumption of adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D can keep your bones strong. People older than 50 should consume 1,200 mg of calcium daily from foods and calcium supplements. Utilizing these simple steps can help to insure safety and prevention of falls and fractures!