Falls are the leading cause of injury for older Americans. As a result, they threaten seniors’ safety and independence in major ways. Approximately one-third of Americans over the age of 65 falls each year, which results in more than 2.4 million injuries treated in emergency rooms. Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls, with over 95% of hip fractures resulting from a fall of some sort. Other common fractures include the spine, forearm, leg and ankle, and the risk for these increases even more when bone-weakening osteoporosis—also common in older adults—is present.
Older adults fall for a number of reasons, but they are often due to a combination of internal and external factors. Poor vision and/or balance in an environment with bad lighting, bad footing or slippery surfaces can be a recipe for a fall. Environmental hazards are responsible for at least one-third of all falls, both in and out of the house.
When a fall does occur, many people unfortunately go on to develop an even greater fear of falling, even if they’re not injured. This can cause them to limit their activities, which leads to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness. Worst of all, this process can become a vicious cycle that actually increases the risk for falling rather than lowering it.
This may lead to the notion that falling is an inevitable part of aging, but this is wrong. By being aware of your risk and making lifestyle adjustments both in and out of the home, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling for you and/or a loved one. Below are some fall-prevention tips to help older adults stay on their feet and injury-free:
- Wear shoes with nonskid soles, consider getting Velcro or spyrolaces if needed
- Install handrails on both sides of all stairways, avoid clutter and putting any items on the floor, remove throw rugs and make sure your home is well-lit
- Conduct a walkthrough of your home (with someone else if you’re uncertain) to identify possible problems that may lead to a fall, then make necessary changes
- Get physically active on a regular basis, as keeping up with your physical fitness is one of the best ways to keep your body strong and prevent falls
- In bathroom, use nonskid mats, a raised toilet seat and grab bars as needed
- If you’re supposed to use a walking assistive device, be sure you’re using it properly and at all times, both in and out of the house
- Get your eyes checked once a year, and get adequate calcium and vitamin D
- If you’re taking numerous medications, learn the side effects and if there are any interactions that can increase your risk of falling
These are just a few of the many adjustments you can make to reduce the risk for a fall. By taking charge and making necessary changes, you won’t have to live with the fear of falling and can go about your day feeling much more confident. For more guidance on how to prevent a fall, or for any other aches or pains you may be experiencing, Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates in Kings Mountain and Shelby, NC is here to help. Contact us at 704-471-0001 for more information or to schedule an appointment.