National falls prevention observances are held throughout September, revolving around the first day of fall. During this month, health care providers and senior service agencies work to raise the awareness of older adults and their families, caregivers, that falls are preventable and detail the ways one can reduce fall risk.
Falling and fear of losing your balance oftentimes can lead to depression, and feelings of hopelessness that reduces a person’s mobility and independence.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “more than one in four older adults aged 65 and older will fall. Among older Americans, falls are the number one cause of injuries and death from injury. This represents 29 million falls, 3 million emergency department (ED) visits, 800,000 hospitalizations, and 28,000 deaths. As the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults, falls will continue to soar, as America’s baby boomers grow older.”
The CDC says that falls are costly, too. “Older adult falls result in more than $31 billion in annual Medicare costs.” Unless there is increased awareness of this problem and promoting prevention tips to seniors and family caregivers, costs are expected to skyrocket, adds CDC.
The National Council on Aging’s Rhode Island Facts notes that for age 60 and over Ocean State residents, unintentional falls are the second leading cause of injury related deaths. Roughly 66 percent of all accidental deaths among individuals age of 65 and over are due to fall injuries. Meanwhile, about 25 percent of older adults who sustain a fall-related injury will not survive. Falls account for 26 percent of injury-related emergency department visits and 43 percent of injury-related hospital discharges. Finally, falls are the leading cause of injury hospitalization in Rhode Island, and most fall-related hospitalizations in Rhode Island occur among people aged 65 and over.
The ABCs of Preventing Falls
But, falling is not a consequence of growing older and injuries are preventable. Through regular exercise you can increase your strength, flexibility and balance. It’s one of the best ways to reduce falling. Your physician can advise you as to the best type of exercise.
Poor vision increases your likelihood of falling. Have your eyes checked by a doctor annually. You may be wearing the wrong glasses prescription or have an eye disease such as glaucoma or macular degeneration or cataracts that limit your vision.
By wearing the right footwear, you can reduce your chances of falling, too. Wear shoes that fit your feet, have low heels, non-slip soles, and lace up or are secured with fabric fasteners.
Make your home safer by removing fall hazards and improving lighting. Reduce your chances for tripping by removing clutter like loose papers, boxes, wires, and phone cords from walk paths and stairways. Make lights brighter, especially in stairways. Add stair railing, too. And, consider a nightlight in the bath, bedroom, and hallways. ü
Add bath grips or grab bars in your tub, shower or next to the toilet. Consider using non-skid liners under rugs. Or, even, remove all throw rugs.
Taking four or more medications increases your risk for a fall. Ask the doctor or local pharmacist to review all the medicines you take – both prescription and over-the-counter. Many medicines can cause side-effects such as weakness or dizziness.
Joseph Wendelken, of the Rhode Island Department of Health, notes that his agency does fall prevention work throughout the year. “We sponsor free workshops throughout the state called Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns about Falls. Through eight two-hour sessions, participants learn how to be active in ways that are healthy and safe, given their particular mobility issue.”
For more information about preventing falls, go to www.health.ri.gov/injury/fallsprevention/for/olderadults/