Senior Health Spotlight: Fall Prevention

by Melissa Chichester

According to the National Council on Aging, one out of four Americans age 65 and experiences a fall each year. And even scarier than that, every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall. The World Health Organization states that falls are the second leading cause of accidental injury deaths on a global scale. While falls may not seem dangerous, as you can see they may have serious consequences – especially for seniors and older adults.

Fast facts on falls from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries
  • 3 million older adults treated in the emergency room for falls each year
  • 1 out of 5 falls cause head injuries or broken bones
  • Vitamin D deficiency is a falling risk factor

How to avoid falls

Falls can be prevented by taking many precautions both at home and with physicians. Start by talking to your doctor. Have your personal physician review medications that may cause dizziness or drowsiness. A doctor can also administer a Vitamin D deficiency test.

In addition, don’t forget to stay up-to-date on vision tests. Make sure to get a vision test at least once per year, or more often if recommended by your doctor.

Making adjustments at home is another way to avoid falls.

  • Clear floors of clutter, including loose cords. It is easy to trip over cords from electronic devices.
  • Ensure light bulbs are bright and working so spaces have adequate light. Install more lights or brighter bulbs if needed.
  • Install grab bars inside of showers, tubs, and near the toilet.
  • Install handrails on stairs both indoors and outdoors.
  • Sit on a bath seat and a use a handheld shower nozzle to avoid falling while bathing.
  • Have clothing hemmed properly to avoid tripping.
  • Wear shoes or slippers with non-slip soles.
  • Use non-slip mats and rugs in the house.

If you do fall, or almost fall, write down the details and share them with your doctor. Your physician can then create a fall prevention strategy that is adapted to your lifestyle needs. This includes developing a physical activity schedule that supports improved flexibility, strength, balance, and coordination.

Although preparation for fall safety may feel like a loss of independence, don’t be ashamed. Assistive devices are there to keep you safe and healthy so you can continue to enjoy your favorite activities.