Falls! Are You At Risk?
By Joan Weems, RN, Victory Home Health, Texoma LIVING WELL Magazine
Each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head injuries, and can increase the risk of early death. Among older adults (those 65 or older), falls are the leading cause of injury death. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma. In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized. In 2010, the direct medical costs of falls, adjusted for inflation, were $30 billion.
Among older adults:
- 3 in 10 fall each year.
- 2 in 10 that need home health care after being hospitalized will fall during the first month after coming home. It’s important to let the home health fall proof your home.
- 1 in 10 suffers a serious injury such as a broken bone or head injury.
- 5 in 10 have problems getting up without help after they have fallen.
- Falls cause over 90% of broken hips and only half of those who break their hip will ever get around like they did before the broken hip.
Falls and fall injuries:
- Are more common than strokes and can be just as serious in their consequences.
- Are the most preventable cause of needing nursing home placement.
- Lead to problems with daily activities like dressing, bathing, and walking around.
How can older adults prevent falls?
Fortunately, falls are a public health problem that is largely preventable. There are many things that you can do to reduce your risk of falling. You can remain independent and reduce your chances of falling. You can:
- Exercise regularly. This tops the list to lower your risk of falling. It is important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance, and that it get more challenging over time. Tai Chi programs are especially good, but are not readily available in our area. Walking is a great source of weight bearing and leg strengthening exercise.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to identify medicines that could cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
- Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update your eyeglasses to maximize your vision. Consider getting a pair with single vision distance lenses for some activities such as walking outside. Bifocals seem to make the ground or steps seem closer than it really is.
- Make your home safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding railings on both sides of stairways and improving the lighting in your home.
To lower hip fracture risk, older adults can:
- Get adequate calcium and vitamin D—from food and/or from supplements.
- Do weight bearing exercise.
- Get screened and, if needed, treated for osteoporosis.
If you need help getting around, leave home for infrequent periods of time and have a skilled need, i.e., medication interactions, fall proof your home, check your blood pressure for orthostatic hypertension (meaning blood pressure drops when changing positions), etc. Our medical equipment team can also do a home safety check and help you with any of your medical equipment needs. Victory would love to be of service to you. Call 888-815-7922 or 877-868-0230 if you have any questions or would like to discuss your care.