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Why Falls Are So Dangerous Among the Elderly and How to Prevent Them

For older Americans, falls are a leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries. Though prevention is key, there are certain risk factors that cannot be avoided with individuals of advanced age. As fall events are expected to soar as Baby Boomer generation grows older, the importance of proper monitoring and supervision in the living environment becomes more profound. Free home healthcare services may be available to eligible individuals, which can greatly reduce the number of fatalities and injuries resulting from falls in the elderly.

Statistics on Falls and the Elderly

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gathers data regarding the incidence of falls in the elderly, and the numbers are concerning:

  • Around one-quarter of adults aged 65 years or older falls annually;
  • Of the 29 million fall events every year, there are 3 million visits to the emergency room and 800,000 victims are hospitalized;
  • Almost 30,000 victims die as a result of fall-related injuries; and,
  • When the injuries are negligible or minor, less than 50 percent of the elderly who suffer a fall tell their healthcare provider about the incident.

Fall Risk Factors for the Elderly

There are a number of factors that contribute to the frequency of falls in the elderly, and most incidents are caused by a combination of several components. With an increase in the number of factors comes an increase in the chances of a fall. Fortunately, some of issues are preventable through modifications.

  • Adding handrails gives leverage while ascending and descending stairs.
  • Installing bath and shower grab bars decreases the potential of falls while bathing.
  • Improved lighting ensures that an elderly person can see and avoid obstacles.
  • Keeping a neat household prevents falls from trip hazards and scattered debris, as well from slippery surfaces.

Other risk factors for falls in the elderly are not easy to resolve, though home healthcare services can assist with prevention. Examples include:

  • A history of falls and related injuries;
  • General muscle weakness and deterioration;
  • Issues with gait and balance;
  • Limited vision;
  • Chronic conditions that afflict the elderly, such as arthritis, stiffness, diabetes, dementia, difficulty sleeping, and others.

Common Injuries from Falls

Approximately 30-50 percent of elderly falls cause minor injuries, such as bruises, cuts, and abrasions. However, 10 percent of these incidents cause more serious injuries. Head injuries, including intracranial injury (ICI) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) are prevalent in the most severe falls. Hip fractures are a unique concern because they tend to create a significant risk of additional falls in the future.

Safety Tips for Preventing Falls

Besides limiting or eliminating risk factors, there are steps the elderly and their families can take to prevent falls. Your first priority should be discussing fall concerns with your primary care physician. Tell your doctor right away if you do fall, slip, trip, or generally feel unsteady. Your provider may want to review your medications to identify whether they are causing you to feel dizzy or groggy. Make sure to mention any over-the-counter medications you take regularly.

Additional fall prevention tips include:

  • Physical Activity: Exercise can improve balance and muscle strength, enhancing your physical ability to avoid a fall. It can elevate your lower body strength, especially your legs – which give you a more powerful center of gravity. Physical activity also enables you to feel more confident in your movements, making you less shaky.
  • Regular Vision Checks: You should visit your eye doctor at least once a year, updating your prescription as necessary. Your vision can deteriorate over a shorter period of time, and your provider can diagnose conditions that limit your vision. Poor vision, glaucoma, cataracts, and other ailments can increase the potential for an injury-causing fall.
  • Visit a Podiatrist: Your feet are your primary tool for getting around, so many falls stem from instability while walking or negotiating stairs. Talk to your physician about proper footwear, orthotics, or other devices to assist with steadiness.
  • Address Safety Hazards in the Home: You can decrease the likelihood of falls by making smart changes to your living environment. Clean up the clutter that can cause you to trip, such as newspapers, books, clothing, shoes, and bags. Remove throw rugs or use carpet pads to keep them in place. Get rid of smaller, unnecessary furniture that creates obstacles in your home.

Reduce the Risk with Home Health Services

You can also take action to prevent falls by working with free home healthcare services, which may be available to you through United Energy Workers Healthcare and Four Corners Health Care. For information on our offerings or answers to your questions, please contact a member of our team.