Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among adults aged 65 years or older (older adults). During 2014, approximately 27,000 older adults died because of falls; 2.8 million were treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries, and approximately 800,000 of these patients were subsequently hospitalized.
For elderly people, falls can be especially serious. They are at higher risk of falling. They are also more likely to break a bone when they fall, especially if they have osteoporosis. A broken bone, especially when it is a hip, may even lead to disability and a loss of independence for the elderly.
Some common causes of falls include:
Some medicines, which can make you feel dizzy, confused, or slow
Alcohol, which can affect your balance and reflexes
Muscle weakness, especially in your legs, which can make it harder for you to get up from a chair or keep your balance when walking on an uneven surface.
Certain illnesses, such as low blood pressure, diabetes, and neuropathy
Slow reflexes, which make it hard to keep your balance or move out of the way of a hazard
Tripping or slipping due to loss of footing or traction
At any age, people can make changes to lower their risk of falling. It important to take care of your health, including getting regular eye exams. Regular exercise may lower your risk of falls by strengthening your muscles, improving your balance, and keeping your bones strong. And you can look for ways to make your house safer. For example, you can get rid of tripping hazards and make sure that you have rails on the stairs and in the bath. To reduce the chances of breaking a bone if you do fall, make sure that you get enough calcium and vitamin D.
Medications That May Increase the Risk of Falling
Blood pressure pills
Diuretics or water pills
Muscle relaxers or tranquilizers
Prevention of Falls and Fractures
Safety first to prevent falls: At any age, people can change their environments to reduce their risk of falling and breaking a bone.
Outdoor safety tips:
In nasty weather, use a walker or cane for added stability.
Wear warm boots with rubber soles for added traction.
Look carefully at floor surfaces in public buildings. Many floors are made of highly polished marble or tile that can be very slippery. If floors have plastic or carpet runners in place, stay on them whenever possible.
Identify community services that can provide assistance, such as 24-hour pharmacies and grocery stores that take orders over the phone and deliver. It is especially important to use these services in bad weather.
Use a shoulder bag, fanny pack, or backpack to leave hands free.
Stop at curbs and check their height before stepping up or down. Be cautious at curbs that have been cut away to allow access for bikes or wheelchairs. The incline up or down may lead to a fall.
Indoor safety tips:
Keep all rooms free from clutter, especially the floors.
Keep floor surfaces smooth but not slippery. When entering rooms, be aware of differences in floor levels and thresholds.
Wear supportive, low-heeled shoes, even at home. Avoid walking around in socks, stockings, or floppy, backless slippers.
Check that all carpets and area rugs have skid-proof backing or are tacked to the floor, including carpeting on stairs.
Keep electrical and telephone cords and wires out of walkways.
Be sure that all stairwells are adequately lit and that stairs have handrails on both sides. Consider placing fluorescent tape on the edges of the top and bottom steps.
For optimal safety, install grab bars on bathroom walls beside tubs, showers, and toilets. If you are unstable on your feet, consider using a plastic chair with a back and nonskid leg tips in the shower.
Use a rubber bath mat in the shower or tub.
Keep a flashlight with fresh batteries beside your bed.
Add ceiling fixtures to rooms lit by lamps only, or install lamps that can be turned on by a switch near the entry point into the room. Another option is to install voice- or sound-activated lamps.
Use bright light bulbs in your home.
If you must use a step-stool for hard-to-reach areas, use a sturdy one with a handrail and wide steps. A better option is to reorganize work and storage areas to minimize the need for stooping or excessive reaching.
Consider purchasing a portable phone that you can take with you from room to room. It provides security because you can answer the phone without rushing for it and you can call for help should an accident occur.
Don’t let prescriptions run low. Always keep at least 1 week’s worth of medications on hand at home. Check prescriptions with your doctor and pharmacist to see if they may be increasing your risk of falling. If you take multiple medications, check with your doctor and pharmacist about possible interactions between the different medications.
Arrange with a family member or friend for daily contact. Try to have at least one person who knows where you are.
If you live alone, you may wish to contract with a monitoring company that will respond to your call 24 hours a day.
Watch yourself in a mirror. Does your body lean or sway back and forth or side to side? People with decreased ability to balance often have a high degree of body sway and are more likely to fall.