Falls Aren't a Normal Part of Aging
Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans, and while falls are particularly dangerous to the elderly, being elderly isn’t the reason you fall. Usually there’s an underlying cause – or a combination of causes - for falling such as:
- Lower body weakness
- A Vitamin D deficiency
- Walking and balance problems
- Use of tranquilizers, sedatives, antidepressants, or even some over-the-counter medicines.
- Poor vision
- Foot pain or inadequate footwear
- Home hazards.
Statistics on senior falls
Senior falls are dangerous – and costly. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one out of four older people fall each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Did you know that, according to the CDC, falling once doubles your chances of falling again?
Some statistics about the elderly and falling via the CDC:
- One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.
- 8 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
- Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often a head injury or hip fracture.
- Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
- Adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries was $34 billion in 2013. By 2020, that number is expected to rise to $67.7 billion.
- Many people who fall become afraid of falling again, and as a result may cut back on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and increase their risk of falling.
-- Related: How much do YOU know about falls? Test your Fall IQ --
Reducing the Risk of Elderly Falls
While you can’t prevent falls, you can make adjustments that help minimize the risk:
- See your doctor, especially if you do fall – there may be an undiagnosed medical cause.
- While at the doctor, review all of your medications to make sure one of them – or a combination of several - isn’t compromising your balance.
- Exercise your legs to help with strength and balance
- Get an eye exam regularly. Vision problems are a common cause of falls
- Drink in moderation. Alcohol can cause unsteadiness, an effect that may be intensified with certain medications.
Some of the most important adjustments you can make are right at home: According to NIH Senior Health, more than half of all falls happen at home, often while doing normal daily activities. Clutter, bad lighting, rugs, lack of railings on stairs or grab bars in baths all pose fall risks for the elderly. To help, we’ve put together a handy checklist of things to do in the home to help reduce the risk of senior falls. Just print it, cut it out and put it in a handy place:
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