One out of three older adults fall each year, but less than half tell their doctor that they have fallen. One out of five falls involving a Senior Citizen causes a serious injury. Each year, 2.5 million older adults are treated in the emergency room for fall-related injuries. Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling. Falls are the most common cause of Traumatic Brain Injuries and the leading cause of accidental death in older adults. The fear of falling can have a huge impact on a Senior Citizen resulting in them reducing their activity and becoming isolated, lonely, and depressed. It can decrease their mobility and even increase their risk of falls.
The best way to prevent falls in the home is to remove the risks. For instance make sure that stairs are brightly lit, have handrails and grab bars in place where needed, and remove throw rugs, clutter, and exposed electric cords. Furniture should not be too low so that it is easy for the Senior to get up and down from. Also, medications can be a physical risk factor in the risk of falling. Of patients that are taking 5 or more medications, 35% of them have an adverse event as a result of their medications. Dietary supplements or herbals result in 23,000 hospital visits each year. Every year 700,000 emergency room visits and 100,000 hospitalizations are directly related to medications. In the Senior population, 25% of medications are either not indicated or are no longer necessary. Symptoms of being over-medicated are confusion, incontinence, agitation, insomnia, falls, sleepiness, change in appetite or thirst, depression, and difficulties walking. Other physical risk factors are orthostatic hypotension, vertigo, neuropathy, and poor leg strength.
Some falls are even easier to prevent by eliminating risky behaviors such as not using ladders, turning on the lights when entering a room, not wearing floppy slippers or flip flops, leaving one hand free when walking, not walking distracted, thinking before you act, and hurrying to answer the phone. Let the phone ring! Also, it is very important to ask for help instead of thinking you have to do everything on your own. Be assertive, ask for what you want, and feel blessed that others are willing to help you. It is just as much of a blessing to them for you to let them help you as it is to you that they are helping you.
Also staying active is extremely important. Keep moving! Physical and mental activity either alone or with an accountability partner helps prevent falls. Set goals for yourself. Check the activity schedules either where you live or at your area Senior Centers.
According to Dr. Leaf at Harvard Medical School stated, “Research shows that many of the problems once attributed to aging such as slowing down, declining muscle strength and fatigue are actually the results of a sedentary lifestyle. 80% of the health problems once associated with aging are now thought to be preventable or postpone-able if a person keeps fit.”
The bottom line is Senior Citizens can avoid preventable falls and unnecessary injuries by focusing on exercise, asking for help, and staying active. Enjoy life!