Falls are common and falls are costly! Falls in adults age 65 and over are the leading cause of head injury and broken hips and are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. That's why Area Agencies on Aging now offer proven community-based programs that help prevent falls from happening. Through practical lifestyle adjustments, evidence-based programs, community partnerships, and home safety progams, the number of falls among seniors can be reduced substantially.
Did you know?
According to the National Council on Aging:
- 1 in 4 Americans aged 65+ fall each year.
- 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
- In 2013, the total cost of fall injuries was $34 billion (78% paid by Medicare)
- This total cost may reach $67.7 billion by 2020
- Even falls without injury can cause fear of falling leading to physical decline, depression, and social isolation.
Falls Prevention: Tips for Older Adults
Falls can result in hip fractures, broken bones and head injuries. And even falls without a major injury can cause an older adult to become fearful or depressed, making it difficult for them to stay active. If you have an aging parent, grandparent, or neighbor in your life, helping them reduce their risk of falling is a great way to help them stay healthy and independent as long as possible.
The good news about falls is that most of them can be prevented. They key is to know where to look. Here are some common factors that can lead to falls as reported by the National Council on Aging:
- Balance and gait: As we age, mosty of us lose some coordination, flexibility, and balance— primarily through inactivity, making it easier to fall.
- Vision: In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina—making contrasting edges, tripping hazards, and obstacles harder to see.
- Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, dehydration or interactions with each other that can lead to a fall.
- Environment: Most seniors have lived in their homes for a long time and have never thought about simple modifications that might keep it safer as they age.
- Chronic conditions: More than 90% of older adults have at least one chronic condition like diabetes, stroke, or arthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling because they result in lost function, inactivity, depression, pain, or multiple medications.
There are many simple and inexpensive ways to make a home safer:
- Lighting: Increase lighting throughout the house, especially at the top and bottom of stairs. Ensure that lighting is readily available when getting up in the middle of the night.
- Stairs: Make sure there are two secure rails on all stairs.
- Bathrooms: Install grab bars in the tub/shower and near the toilet. Make sure they’re installed where your older loved one would actually use them. For even greater safety, consider using a shower chair and hand-held shower.
For more ideas on how to make the home safer, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers a home assessment checklist in multiple languages.