The middle-of-the-night fall on the way to the bathroom. The slip on the throw rug. The trip on the uneven sidewalk. Stumbles and tumbles can happen at any age, but older adults pay the heaviest price when they fall.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one out of four adults aged 65 and older fall each year, but less than half report a fall to their doctor. Roughly 20 percent of falls cause serious injuries including broken bones, lacerations and head traumas.
Fortunately, falls are avoidable even as you age. You can prevent your chance of falling and help a loved one avoid falls as well.
Key Facts About Falls
The CDC lists several details about the seriousness of falls. These fall facts for the United States include:
- Annually, emergency departments treat 3 million older adults for fall injuries.
- More than 800,000 patients each year are hospitalized for a fall injury.
- Of geriatric adults who fall each year, at least 300,000 are hospitalized with a hip fracture.
- Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
- In 2019, more than 34,000 adults 65 and older died from falls, making falls the main cause of injury death for seniors.
- Each year, older adult falls accrue $50 billion in medical costs.
- Common bones broken in a fall include wrist, arm, hip and ankle.
- Fall-related fractures are more than double for older women than for older men.
What Conditions Cause Most Falls?
Injuries from a fall often limit mobility and can increase the risk of early death for the elderly. People with occupations at elevated heights or dangerous working conditions are susceptible to fall injuries. Many conditions or risk factors lead to falling and these include:
- Balance and walking difficulties
- Weakness in lower body
- Eyesight problems
- Decreased cognitive functioning
- Changes in sensory or physical functioning
- Dizziness, weakness or drowsiness from health conditions
- Recovery from surgery, illness or injury
- Use of certain medications such as sedatives, tranquilizers and antidepressants
- Alcohol or substance use
- Foot or leg pain
- Improper footwear
- Deficiency of vitamin D or depletion of key nutrition
- Hazards inside the home or around exterior surroundings
How to Reduce the Chance of Falling
The above risk factors can be reduced through fall prevention modifications. Think healthcare providers can help reduce a person’s risk factors and are available to conduct a fall risk screening for individuals of any age. The following are simple, proactive steps to help prevent falls:
- Consult with your think primary care provider about your overall health and possible fall risk factors.
- Visit with the think physical therapy team for a fall risk evaluation and ways to safeguard yourself from falling.
- Stay current on your annual optometry exams. A think eye doctor can check your eyesight and recommend any necessary corrective lenses to improve your vision.
- Check with your clinical pharmacist or family doctor about any of your prescription or over-the-counter medications that might cause balance, vision or alertness issues.
Fall Prevention: Safeguarding Your Home’s Interior
The World Health Organization and the CDC both note that most falls in a home occur in the bathroom. The following home safety tips will help protect anyone, especially the elderly:
- Avoid wet or slippery floors
- Add grab bars around tub, shower and toilet
- Use a transfer bench or shower chair
- Add a toilet riser for those with weaker arm strength
- Increase lightning (i.e., nightlights) between bed/bathroom and toilet
- Place nonslip strips or decals in tub or shower
General Living Areas
- Remove clutter, electronics, electrical cords and furnishings in walkways
- Install rounded handrails on both sides of steps
- Add increased lighting to steps and stairways
- Be sure chairs and sofas have sturdy armrests
- Tack down loose carpet/flooring edges or replace carpet/flooring where needed
- Avoid reaching for items on higher shelves
- Keep heavier pots and pans on lower shelves
- Wipe up spills immediately
- Replace wheeled chairs with stable, non-wheeled chairs
- Use only a sturdy stepstool with a handle for better balance
- Use a nonskid mat in front of sink
PREVENTING FALLS: Safeguarding Your Home’s Exterior
Stumbles and trips outside the home on the external premises are more common than to lose footing indoors. Most falls outdoors are related to walking and catching a foot on uneven sidewalks or over curbs. When people fall outside, they tend to injure themselves on hard surfaces such as concrete, asphalt or rocks. Falling outdoors typically occurs in parking lots, gardens and yards and on patios, porches and decks. Many home exterior falls can be prevented through safety measures including:
- Keep walkways and steps free of debris and obstacles including water puddles, snow and ice
- Install brighter outdoor lighting, particularly around steps
- Secure stairways/steps with sturdy handrails
- Repair broken or uneven pavement/surfaces on driveways and steps
- Avoid uneven terrain or slippery surfaces and watch for holes
- Wear steady, low-heeled shoes for better balance
- Be aware of curb and step height before stepping up on them
- Check eyewear to help limit distortion and vision changes when walking
For anyone with balance problems, it is best to use a cane, walker or other assistive device or hold the hand of a caregiver for extra support. Think healthcare providers can assist with identifying fall hazards and evaluating your fall risks. If you do experience a fall, think medical professionals can help assess and treat your injuries and help you return to a safe, confident lifestyle.
LEARN MORE ABOUT PREVENTING FALLS AND INJURY AND FALL RISK SCREENING BY SPEAKING WITH OUR PHYSICAL THERAPY PROVIDERS
Think makes it easy to receive a fall risk screening and we provide treatment for fall injuries. Our physical therapy team also helps you individually with gait, balance and functional training and offers balance and strengthening classes twice a week. We are here to keep you moving independently and steadily no matter if you stay at home or venture out in the community.
If you need quick assistance from a fall, our walk-in clinic treats anyone, even those who are not a think patient or do not have a primary care provider currently. To learn more about our wide-ranging affordable care, visit our Services page online and choose your own think medical professionals by visiting our Meet Your Doctor page.