Falls are the leading cause of injury related emergency room visits in persons over 65 years of age. The risk of falling increases with age and is greater for women than men. Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among the elderly. Almost 10,000 deaths in older Americans are associated with falls every year. The most significant consequence of falling is the loss of independence. After a serious fall, an elderly person often suffers a decline in normal activities of daily living and is often permanently placed in an assisted living facility or in a nursing home.
Hip fractures are a frequent consequence of falls and occur to more than 250,000 elderly people at a health care cost of approximately10 billion dollars each year. Twenty five percent of those who sustain a hip fracture require life-long nursing home care. Other injuries from a fall include head injuries, lacerations, severe bruising and fractures of arms or legs.
Risk factors of falls and preventative measures are as follows:
- Have regular vision checkups.
- Add contrasting colored strips on the edges of first and last steps to identify change of level.
Lack of physical activity:
- Exercise regularly to maintain muscle tone and strength.
- Work with your doctor to diagnosis and treat osteoporosis (thinning of the bones).
- Prescription pain medicine, sedatives, and anti depressant drugs are the biggest medication culprits in causing falls.
- Beware of alcohol interacting with drugs.
- Know the common side effects of your medications.
- Avoid throw rugs.
- Reduce clutter.
- Maintain adequate lighting.
- Install grab bars around tub and toilet.
- Keep commonly used items in easy reach.
- Avoid using floor polish or wax to prevent slipping.
- Remove caster wheels from furniture.
- Use night lights.
- Avoid steps stools and ladders.
I would love to start a campaign to have our society remove all concrete parking bumpers in parking lots. They are accidents waiting to happen. The elderly tend to fall face first onto the pavement as I have witnessed all too many times in my practice. Please be extremely careful when walking to and from your car to avoid tripping over these bumper hazards.
As we age, we all need to move around more carefully and slow things down a bit to prevent falls and to help us enjoy a longer, healthier, and independent life.