The National Institute of Health claims that 1.6 million older adults in the U.S. go to the emergency room each year due to a fall—which the NCOA says that’s about one person every 13 seconds.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the number of deaths from fall injury among people over 65 nearly doubled between 2000 and 2013. Falls represent over half of the total deaths from accidental injury among the group. The National Council NCOA’s tips to help you avoid a fall:
Find a good balance and exercise program
•Build and maintain balance, strength, and flexibility. Contact you local Area Agency on Aging for referrals. Also, find a Silver Sneakers class that offers balance classes.
Talk to the doctor or a health care provider
• Ask for a fall safety assessment—which measures your risk. Share with your health provider the history of recent falls.
• Frequently review your medications with you pharmacist and physician. Make sure side effects aren’t increasing the risk of falling.
• Get your vision and hearing checked annually and update your eyeglasses. The eyes and ears are essential to keeping you on your feet.
Keep your house safe.
• Remove tripping hazards, increase lighting, make stairs safe, and install grab bars next to the toilet, in the shower or bathtub.
• Ask your family for help and support in taking simple steps to keep safe. Falls are not just a senior’s concern.
Tips to help your older relative
If you have an older relative or neighbor, contribute to reducing their risk of falling. It’s a great way to keep them healthy and independent as long as possible. Most falls are preventable; you just need to know where to look. Here are several factors that lead to a fall:
• Balance and gait: As people age, they lose coordination, flexibility, and balance due to inactivity.
• Vision: Less light reaches the retina as eyes age. It contributes to difficulties in contrasting edges making obstacles harder to see.
• Prescription medications: Even some over-the-counter drugs cause dizziness, dehydration or interactions with each other that can lead to a fall.
• Surroundings: Be aware of things in the home that can be a risk; Use nonslip mats in the bathtub and move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stand from high-traffic areas.
• Chronic conditions: More than 90 percent of older adults have at least one chronic condition like diabetes, stroke, or arthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling because they result in lost function, inactivity, depression, pain, or multiple medications.
Other ways to protect loved ones using these steps:
• Find out if your older loved one is experiencing any problems with managing their health.
• Notice if they’re holding onto walls, furniture, or someone else when walking or if they appear to have difficulty walking or arising from a chair.
• Talk about their medications.
• Do a walk-through safety assessment of their home.
Carol Marak, aging advocate, columnist, and editor at SeniorCare.com. She earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from the University of CA, Davis.Contact Carol at Carol@SeniorCare.com.