Senior Health: Preventing Slips and Falls

trippingSlips and falls are one of the leading causes of injury and deaths among the elderly, and unfortunately many of these accidents are preventable.

Of course, not only the elderly suffer from falling accidents as these can happen at any age. However, the elderly are certainly at a higher risk. In fact, each year, the CDC reports that 1 in 3 seniors over the age of 65 will experience a fall.  In 2010, the CDC reported over 2.3 million injuries from nonfatal falls occurring in older adults that required emergency room treatment.

Given these statistics, responsible seniors know that it is best to take preventative actions before such accidents occur. As we age, the risk of these accidents increase. While many people might experience a cut or bruise from a fall, the elderly are at risk for injuries that are much more serious, such as head injuries, hip fractures or even death. In fact, not only does the risk of falling increase, but the risk of suffering a serious injury as a result of a fall also increases and can lead to many elderly individuals becoming dependent on long-term care, hospitalization or in-home care.

In addition to the costs for medical care and rehabilitation, these injuries can significantly limit or eliminate an elderly individuals independence or mobility. As you strive to provide a safe environment for you or someone you love, to age in place, the importance of reducing the risk of serious falls and preventing accidents is essential.

Whether you want to make sure a loved one is safe or to ensure your home is as safe as possible for yourself, identifying potential dangers is an important step in minimizing the risk for falls.

Environmental Hazards

There are many occurrences of slip & fall accidents that could potentially be prevented. Things, such as removing rugs from the floor, replacing light bulbs that have burnt out, especially in walkways and hallways, as well as picking up objects left on the stairs, can all contribute to a safer environment for seniors. Pay particular attention to bathrooms and stairways as these are areas that are especially prone to slip and fall accidents.

Other factors that can contribute to falls include spills or floors with wet areas, such as by a door, especially in inclement weather when rain and snow can leave the floor slippery. The kitchen and bathroom floors are also very susceptible to becoming slippery due to spills. It is important that all liquids are promptly wiped off the floor. Every home has environmental hazards; however, there are also numerous ways that these accidents can be prevented.

Health Problems

Many medical conditions or physical problems can contribute to a higher likelihood of the elderly succumbing to falls. Changes that come with age, such as muscle weakness, deteriorating eye sight and balance problems can all increase the danger of a fall at home. Good lighting, picking up clutter and sturdy handrails can help reduce the occurrence of slip and fall accidents among seniors. Installing chair lifts for stairs may help those who live in homes with stairs, as these present a significant falling risk.

The CDC reports that many falls, approximately 20% – 30%, result in injuries that are either moderate to severe. However, there are some health problems that can increase the likelihood of a fall, as well as increase the level of injury when a fall does occur. Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis and dementia can not only increase the risk of slip & fall accidents among seniors, but an elderly individual with these conditions will also be much more likely to suffer injuries that are serious, including death.

Medication Issues

There are many medications that include side effects like confusion, drowsiness or dizziness, all of which could increase the likelihood of a fall. The National Institute on Aging reports that the more medications an individual takes, the higher their chances of experiencing a fall. Starting a new type of medication or taking four or more prescription medications can also increase a persons risk of experiencing a fall. If you feel unsteady or dizzy, be sure to discuss this with your physician.

Additionally, checking drug interactions is extremely important, especially if you take multiple medications. Seniors should always speak with their doctor about any new medications, including over the counter medicines they may be taking.

Finally, an elderly person who has experienced a fall might develop a fear that they will fall again. If this occurs, it is essential that they be helped to readjust into their home environment and take measures to safeguard their home in order to prevent future falls. You can also discuss with the individual or their doctor other steps you can take in order to minimize the risks for slip & fall accidents.

What If You Fall?

Anyone who has experienced a fall should seek immediate help for any injuries. However, even if you are not seriously injured from a fall, you should speak with your doctor in order to rule out any new medical problems that may be contributing to balance issues. However, it is also very important that you do what you can to prevent falls from happening in the first place!