Talking to aging adults about their health can be difficult, but you can help to prevent unnecessary falls. Aging adults are at high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that 1 in 4 older adults have reported to have fallen. Debbie Lynn Toomey, RN, Injury Prevention Coordinator tells us while falls increase with age, it does not have to be a part of aging. Falls are preventable!
What causes an aging adult to fall?
There are many factors that can lead to falls such as:
- Sedentary lifestyle – deconditions and makes the body weaker
- Medications – taking multiple medications can have drug interactions and side-effects that can make a person weak, dizzy, unsteady, sleepy, or unbalanced
- Darkness – walking in the dark makes it difficult to see any objects in the way
- Vision and/or Hearing – Impairment of any of our main senses increases the risk for accidents
- Footwear – wearing improper or poorly fitting footwear
- Flooring/Stairs – walking on unsteady grounds such as brick sidewalks, stairs without handrails, or area rugs in the house.
- Pets – tripping over a pet or the pet’s leash
- Distraction – thinking about something or worrying about problems can be distracting
How can one prevent falling?
There are measures that the aging population can take to reduce their risk of falling such as:
- Exercising your body to become stronger, gain better balance, and more endurance
- Eliminating objects on the floor that can lead to tripping
- Getting regular vision and hearing test
- Getting enough sleep and rest
- Keeping rooms properly lit with night lights.
- Wearing proper foot wear
- Being mindful and paying attention to the task at hand
- Holding onto the railing when going up and down the stairs
- Asking your physicians for the best exercise program and requesting for the help of physical therapy for more target activities
What are some important messages about falls for the elderly?
- Keep active. Even doing house chores is considered an exercise.
- Join your local Council on Aging to learn about the many free programs they offer.
- De-clutter your space. The less objects you have laying around that can lead to tripping the better.
- Talk to your doctor about your concerns and keep them informed about how you are doing. Always keep your doctor abreast of your health and safety. They cannot help you unless you tell them what is going on.
If you know an aging adult who has suffered a fall, what can you do to help them prevent another one?
The best thing you can do is to encourage them to keep doing the exercises that were recommended to do and join their local Council on Aging to be around other motivated seniors. The more they move around and socialize the stronger and better they will feel.
What are the typical injuries from falls?
Typical unintentional injuries from a fall are bumps, bruises, laceration, and broken bones. About 30% - 50% of falls in the elderly are minor injuries. Fortunately, there is a smaller percentage of falls that are serious and pose a significant risk for morbidity and mortality. They are intracranial bleed (brain bleed), facial, shoulder, wrist, hip, or knee fractures. These types of unintentional injuries warrant immediate medical attention.