Aging is one thing we can all agree is the future for every person here on Earth. As we age numerically, so does our bodies – and this can come with a new range of health concerns. When we think about the word fall the first thing that generally crosses our mind is the season. For the Abraham Family and Geriatric Medicine team, fall also carries a bigger meaning: a leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for those over the age of 65. With one in three senior citizens experiencing a major fall each year, we wanted to share some of our top fall prevention safety tips because even falls that seem minor can do more harm than you’d expect!
Important Facts about Falls
Even if you’ve never had a traumatic fall in the past, as we get older, certain measures to lower the risk of injuries due to falls should not be overlooked. Here are some facts shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to put falls into perspective:
- Each year, 5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
- Less than half of patients tell their doctor about a fall.
- Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.
- Falls can cause head injuries, broken bones, like wrist, arm, ankle, and hip fractures.
- Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this increases their chances of falling.
What Makes You More Likely To Fall?
The truth is falls can happen to anyone, regardless of age. We can all sustain injuries and develop increased fear in falling again in the future. Of course we are all different and this goes the same for how we age, thus pinpointing key factors that contribute falls varies from person to person. Generally speaking though, we can hone in on these 4 key personal risk factors:
- Age – as we get older our risk increases. Eyesight, balance, bone strength, and reaction time to our environment start to deteriorate the older we get.
- Activity – not getting sufficient exercise into your daily/weekly routine can lead to decreased balance/coordination, as well as bone/muscle strength.
- Daily Habits – decreased bone strength is linked to excessive drinking of alcohol and smoking. Alcohol is also a contributing factor to decreased mobility and stability issues.
- Diet – there are a great deal of benefits to healthy exercise and even more benefits when combined with a balanced diet. Food and ample water gives our body the juice it needs to get through the day, but if we’re not providing it with the right amount, it can leave our bodies overworked and depleted of crucial energy needed to get through our day to day activities.
Fall Prevention Tips
The best prevention we can recommend is a combination of addressing your own body and your surroundings. This means we recommend adopting healthy lifestyle choices (if you don’t already) as well as performing safety adjustments around the home to decrease the likelihood of falls. There are multitudes of safety tips on the CDC website, but we’ve picked some of the most notable tips that we believe are great fall risk prevention recommendations:
Around the House
- Keep clutter off of the floor.
- Arrange furniture so there is a clear walkway/pathway between rooms.
- Ensure there is adequate lighting throughout the house.
- Keep electrical cords out of the walkways (do not hide them under a rug though).
- Secure loose rugs with double-sided tape or slip-resistent backings.
- Keep stairs clear of boxes or clutter.
- Place flashlights throughout the house in easy to locate areas (in case of a power outage).
- Install handrails on both sides of the stairwell.
- Install grab bars on the bathroom walls.
- Keep nightlights throughout the house for additional lighting at night.
Your Health & Safety
- Get an annual geriatric assessment exam and an eye examination to make sure you’re in healthy physical condition.
- Maintain a healthy diet (lots of calcium and Vitamin D-rich products) and limit the intake of alcohol.
- Make sure all medications are clearly labeled and stored in a well-lit area.
- Talk to your doctor about a recommended exercise program.
- Wear properly-fitting shoes with nonskid soles (and limit the use of high heels).
- Ensure shoe laces are always tied.
- Limit walking around the house with slippery socks or stockings that don’t provide grip.
- If you’re wearing house slippers, make sure they aren’t loose and form to your foot properly.
If you should experience a fall, even if you don’t think there are any major issues, always talk to your doctor to rule out any unforeseen health concerns. For those of you interested in learning more about our geriatric services, discussing your individual needs, or for more on how we can help you lower your risk of falling, don’t hesitate to contact Abraham Family and Geriatric Medicine today!