Unintentional falls are one of the most common reasons for disability and premature death in seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about three million seniors age 65 and over are treated in emergency rooms for injuries from unintentional falls and about 800,000 seniors are hospitalized because of injuries due to unintentional falls.
Unintentional Injuries are the 7th Cause of Death in Seniors age 65 and Older
The CDC also reports that deaths from unintentional falls in seniors rose by 31% from 2007 to 2016 and the highest rate was for seniors over the age of 85. In 2016 the CDC reports that 29,668 seniors age 65 and older died as a result of an unintentional fall.
Hip Fractures and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) Lead to Most Serious Injuries
For the record, more than one out of every four seniors fall every year, but less than half tell their doctors. Having one serious fall doubles the chance to fall again and have another serious fall. The CDC anticipates that by 2030 there will be seven deaths from falls every hour. Hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries are among the most serious types of falls common to seniors:
About 300,000 seniors are hospitalized every year for hip fractures and 95% of these are from unintentional falls that happen most often from falling sideways.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
Falls are the most common cause for traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Also, many seniors are on medicines that can cause serious complications for traumatic brain injuries like blood thinning drugs. Any senior who falls and gets a head injury should go immediately to their doctor to make certain there has not been any serious trauma to the brain.
Falls are Costly
In 2015, total medical costs for falls was more than $50 billion and Medicare and Medicaid paid for 75% of these costs.
Fear of Falling
Many seniors who have fallen, even if they did not get any serious injuries, develop a fear of falling, which can lead to them being afraid to go about their everyday activities. Less physical activity actually can increase the risk for having another fall.
Steps to Prevent Falls in Seniors
Check Medicines for Dizziness as a Side Effect
Ask your doctor or pharmacist to see if any of the medicines you are taking can cause dizziness as a side effect. Be sure to also tell your doctor about any over-the-counter medicines you are taking as well as any herbs or dietary supplements.
Ask your doctor to test you for Vitamin D deficiency to determine if you need to take Vitamin D as a supplement.
Strength and Balance Exercises
You can enroll in a class for strength and balance exercises at a senior center or work out at home. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) offers excellent exercises and work out videos on-line on their Go4Life website to teach you how you can do strength and balance exercises at home.
Every senior should have a yearly dilated eye exam by a qualified ophthalmologist (eye doctor). Many vision problems that begin as we age can also lead to falls.
Make your Home Safer
- Make sure there are no objects and clutter lying around that you can trip over. Be especially careful about electrical cords, computer wires and telephone wires.
- Have grab bars placed in your bath and shower stall. Also, put grab bars next to the toilet.
- Have non-slip mats in bath tub and on shower floor.
- Make sure to have hand railings on both sides of your stairs.
- Ad brighter light bulbs so you can see where you are going.
- Make sure your shoes have non-slip soles.
- Make sure to use night lights and keep lights on in the bathroom.
- Keep a flashlight by your bed and do not get up in the dark without turning on the lights.
- Do not stand on chairs or tables to reach things high up and out of reach. Use a reach stick which is a special grabbing tool.
- Do not climb on a step stool unless it has a handrail on top. Never climb on a wobbly step stool.
- Be careful about pets as sometimes a dog or cat can trip you.
Rehabilitation to Recover from a Fall
If you or your loved one are in need of a rehab to recover after a fall, the Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in East Orange, New Jersey has a post-acute rehabilitation center that is considered the premier choice for short-term rehabilitation and sub-acute care in the area. Park Crescent also offers long-term skilled nursing care.
Seniors and their family members and caretakers should do everything possible to prevent unintentional falls which are costly and deadly.