Submitted by Ryan Wille, B.S.
Community Health Educator
Falls and fall-related injuries among older adults are a serious public health concern, especially considering there is a rapidly growing older population. The National Council on Aging provides some alarming information about the problem:
- One third of Americans age 65+ fall each year, resulting in more than 1.8 million emergency room visits. Every 18 seconds an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a fall.
- Falls are the most common cause of nonfatal trauma related hospital admissions among older adults and the leading cause of fatal injury. There are over 480,000 hospitalizations and about 16,700 deaths each year. Every 35 minutes an older adult dies following a fall.
- In 2000, the direct medical cost of fatal and nonfatal fall injuries was over $19 billion. This financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase and could reach $54.9 billion by 2020.
Although the statistics are alarming, individuals can take steps to prevent these dangerous falls from occurring. WebMD has provided several preventive measures for individuals to follow:
- Take care of yourself: If you live alone, wear an alarm device or carry a cell phone in case you fall and can’t get up. Have your vision and hearing checked each year, or anytime you notice a change. Call your doctor if you are dizzy or having difficulty with your balance, because this could be a warning sign of a health problem that needs to be treated. And if you are feeling weak or dizzy, ask someone to help you with your activities. Also, see your doctor if you have calluses or corns on your feet. If you wear loose-fitting shoes because of calluses or corns, you can lose your balance.
- Learn ways to keep your balance: Exercise often to improve strength, muscle tone, and sense of balance. Wear low-heeled shoes that fit well and give your feet good support. If you use a walker or cane, make sure it is fitted to you and has rubber tips on it. If you have pets, train them not to jump or get underfoot of people. A collar with a bell will help you know when your pets are nearby.
- Learn about your medicines: Ask your doctor what the side effects are of the medicines you are taking. If you are taking more then one medicine, ask your doctor how the medicines interact with each other.
- Make your home safer: Remove or fix things that you might trip over. Keep paths clear of electrical cords and clutter. Use nonskid floor wax and wipe up spills right away. Keep your house well lit. Use night-lights in hallways and bathrooms. Put sturdy handrails on stairways. Store items on lower shelves so you don’t have to climb or reach high. Keep a phone and a flashlight by your bed.
- Stay safe while bathing: Install grab handles and nonskid mats in the tub and shower. Use a shower chair or bath bench.
- Prevent outdoor falls: If you live in an area that gets snow and ice in the winter, have a family member or friend sprinkle salt or sand on slippery steps and sidewalks.
For more information, attend a FREE program co-sponsored by HealthLink/Nathan Littauer Hospital, Office For Aging and the Y entitled “Improve Balance & Prevent Falls” on Friday, October 21 from 1 to 3 p.m. Transportation is available to the Y for this program …for details or to attend, call OFA at 736-5650.