It doesn’t matter if you’re 65 or 15 years old – people of all ages can have dangerous falls, and they can happen anywhere. As we age, the risk of falls increases, and they can be more severe and take longer to heal.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) falls can cause fatal and nonfatal injuries to people that are 65 or older. Common injuries include:
• Head injuries
• Shoulder injuries
• Forearm injuries
• Spine fractures
• Pelvic fractures
• Hip fractures
Facts about Falls and the Elderly
Falls can cause life-changing injuries to the elderly. Falls can result in hospitalization, decreased independence and decreased mobility. Each year, one in three adults over the age of 65 falls.
• 90% of hip fractures are due to falling
• Half of hip fractures occur in women
• 1 in 4 hip fracture patients will make a full recovery
• 40% of hip fracture patients will require relocation to a nursing home
• Half of hip fracture patients will depend on a cane or walker
What can Cause a Fall?
There are many reasons why anyone could fall, from not looking where you’re going to a medical condition. Below are a few factors that could cause an adult over the age of 65 to fall.
Medical Risk Factors
• Musculoskeletal function (osteoporosis, cancer etc.)
• Cardiac arrhythmias or blood pressure
• Hip weakness or imbalance
• Alzheimer’s or cognitive impairment
• Neurologic conditions
• Urinary or bladder dysfunction
• Vision or hearing conditions
• Side effects of medication
Personal Risk Factors
• Age – Aging can affect eyesight, balance and strength.
• Activity – Lack of activity can lead to decreased balance, poor coordination and loss of bone/muscle strength.
• Habits – Drinking and smoking habits can decrease bone strength and cause other diseases that increase the risk of falling.
• Diet – Not getting enough water, food or daily vitamins can affect strength and energy.
Risk Factors in the Home
Falls can happen in the home due to poor lighting, cluttered pathways, or slippery/wet surfaces. Most fractures in the home are related to everyday activities such as walking up or down the stairs, crossing a room or working in the kitchen. When at home, watch for items placed in pathways, slippery floors and even edges of carpets that could pose a tripping hazard.
What are some Lifestyle Choices I can Make to Prevent Falls?
Keep active to maintain your health, know the possible side effects of your medications, wear proper footwear and watch out for tripping hazards that may cause you to fall.
Health and Medication Recommendations
• Get yearly eye exams
• Attend your annual physical and evaluation for cardiac and blood pressure issues
• Maintain your diet and with your doctor’s approval, take dietary supplements like vitamin D and Calcium
• Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol
• Always keep an up-to-date medication list for your doctors including prescription and over-the-counter medications
• Ask your doctor about the possible side effects of all your medications
• Take all your medications on schedule and read the labels. If you’re taking over-the-counter vitamins, prescription medication may require they be taken 2 hours before or after prescriptions.
• Talk to your doctor about what exercises can help you stay active and safe
• Take part in an exercise program designed for strength, balance and coordination
• Participate in activities that can improve your overall health and quality of life like cycling, gardening or walking
• Wear proper-fitting shoes
• Avoid high heels
• Wear non-skid shoes
• Make sure your shoelaces are always tied
• Use a shoehorn to help you put your shoes on properly
• Never wear slippers that are too big for your feet
What Should I do If I Fall?
If you fall, remember that it’s very important not to panic. Assess the situation slowly and determine if you feel any pain or are hurt. Try to help yourself up by holding onto something sturdy. If you’re unable to get up, then call for help. If you’re alone and unable to get up, slowly crawl to the nearest phone and call 911. If you’re outside and fall, call for a stranger to help you or to call 911 if you need further assistance from a medical professional.
Printable Guidelines to Help Prevent Falls
By following the fall prevention recommendations written by The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Orthopaedic Trauma Association, you can help yourself or a loved one avoid falling. Print and read the article: “Falls Awareness and Prevention Guide” for more information.