Prevent Fall-related Injuries Among Older Adults
The first day of fall this year, September 22, 2016, is the Annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day. Sponsored by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), this event is designed to raise awareness about how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults.
Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people aged 65+. Often, these falls result in hip fractures, broken bones and head injuries. It can also lead an older adult to become fearful or depressed.
- 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 result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually; including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
- In 2013, the total cost of fall injuries was $34 billion. The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
Risk Factors for Fall-related Injuries in Older Adults
- As we age, we tend to lose coordination, flexibility and balance making it easier to fall. Often, this can be a result of inactivity.
- Aging eyes lead to poor vision making it harder to see tripping hazards or obstacles in the walking area.
- Some prescriptions or even over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness or even dehydration that can lead to a fall.
- More than 90% of older adults have some type of chronic condition, such as diabetes or arthritis, that increases their risk of falling.
Reducing Fall-Related Injuries with Home Modifications
Simple home modifications can make it safer for an older adult who wants to age in place in their own home — removing hazards, adding supports or changing how or where activities are done.
- Be sure to keep all pathways (stairs and walkways) clear.
- Try to fix uneven surfaces when possible. This refers to changes in the level of flooring such as in doorways or in between carpeting and tile. Either do not use throw rugs or use a rug gripper to secure it safely to the floor.
- Install bright lights. Put light switches at both ends of a stairway or long hallway. Use night lights to make it easier for those late night trips to the bathroom or kitchen.
- Add supports in the bathroom such as grab bars near the toilet or in the shower. Put down non-skid strips in the bathtub, too, to help prevent an accidental slip.
- Add supports to stairways by installing handrails on both sides.
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