Fall prevention among seniors

October 13, 2017

Retirement Living Staff

When is the best time to focus on fall prevention? Before you fall.

With healthcare costs from falling injuries on the rise, we took a look at fall prevention, and we were surprised at what we discovered. The best way to tell about the epidemic of falling injuries is with data. And before you conclude you aren’t at risk, consider a few points from the most recent data available from the CDC. Among seniors 65+:

  • 1/3 seniors fall each year, and those who fall once are 2-3x more likely to fall again
  • 1/5 falls leads to serious injury, such as a broken bones or head injuries
  • 2.8 million seniors are treated for falls each year
  • Hip fractures are one of the most common falling injuries, as are traumatic brain injuries

ice cream cone

Fallen ice cream cone. Source: Getty

Risk Factors for Falling

In many cases, a fall injury can take a senior off their feet for months, and turn a reasonably healthy person’s life around – permanently. And although anyone can trip and fall, there are several prominent factors that increase the risk of a fall. Take note, the most common factors include:

  • Medications – Some medications or combinations of medications impact your balance.
  • Physical weakness – Weakness may be the result of inactivity or other natural or biological factors.
  • Vision problems – Your feet rely on your vision to spot obstacles. Have you been to the eye doctor lately?
  • Home hazards – Environmental factors like dim lighting, rugs or unexpected objects can cause you to trip.

Many retirement communities and other senior housing facilities have worked to reduce the environmental risk factors of falling. But be advised – the home isn’t the only place where you may be injured.

Traveling is inherently risky, especially if you’re living in a cold climate with lots of ice and snow, where you’re at increased risk. The same goes for seniors who need to move a lot for work, and those who need to go up and down stairs. While there’s certainly plenty of cause for alarm, don’t be too discouraged.

Fall Prevention

Fortunately, most falls are preventable, according to this guide for fall prevention from the CDC. Our advice is to do everything you can take steps to reduce the likeliness of a fall, even if you feel like you aren’t at risk. These remedies include talking to your doctor about the medication you’re taking, finding ways to (re)strengthen your body, getting new glasses often and making your home a safer place.

5 Steps to Fall Prevention

Whether you or a loved one is at risk, follow these 5 practical steps to reduce the risk of falling:

  1. Check with your doctor regularly, and report any balance related issues.
  2. Get a fitness tracker and set daily activity goals. You can set goals like stand every hour, move 200 calories or exercise 10 minutes per day.
  3. Keep your eyeglasses handy.
  4. Install cheap motion activated lights near stairs or other high risk zones in your house.
  5. Switch to a walk-in bathtub. The bathroom is the most dangerous room in your house.

If you’re at especially high risk, consider buying a medical alert system. These devices can be worn as either a bracelet or a necklace and can be configured to call for help in the event someone is injured in a fall.

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