Don’t become a statistic: Take action now to prevent fallsFalls continue to be the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injury for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs.
By: Mary Krueger, Douglas County Senior Coordinator, Alexandria Echo Press
Falls continue to be the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injury for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs.
In 2007, more than 18,000 older Americans died from injuries related to unintentional falls.
In 2008, about 2.1 million nonfatal fall injuries in people 65 and older were treated in emergency departments and more than 550,000 of these patients were then hospitalized.
The total cost of fall injuries for older Americans was $19 billion in 2000. By 2020, the annual direct and indirect cost of fall injuries is expected to reach $54.9 billion.
Falling is not an inevitable result of aging. Through evidence-based interventions, practical lifestyle adjustments and community partnerships we can substantially reduce the number of falls.
We need to encourage older adults to adopt healthy behaviors, become more physically active, have their medications reviewed and make appropriate safety modifications to their homes.
We should encourage health care providers to assess all older patients for fall risk factors. We need to educate and train caregivers and family members in ways to reduce falls around the home.
Communities should increase availability of evidence-based falls prevention programs such as Matter of Balance and physical activity programs in community based organizations that serve older adults.
Here are four things that you can do to prevent falls:
Begin a regular exercise program. Exercise is one of the most important ways to lower your chances of falling. It makes you stronger and helps you feel better. Exercises that improve your coordination and balance (like Matter of Balance) are the most helpful.
Have your health care provider review your medicines. Have your doctor or pharmacist review all the medicines you are taking (even over-the-counter and non-prescription medications). As you get older, the way medicines work in your body can change. Some medicines, or combinations of medicines, can make you sleepy, dizzy or can cause you to fall.
Have your vision checked at least once a year. You may be wearing the wrong glasses or have a condition called glaucoma or even cataracts that can limit your vision. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling.
Make your home safer. About 50 percent of all falls happen at home. Make sure you remove things you can trip over from stairs and places where you walk.
Remove throw rugs or use double sided tape to keep them from slipping. Keep items you use often in cabinets you can reach easily without using a step stool.
Have grab bars installed next to your toilet and in the tub or shower. Use non-slip mats in the bathtub. Improve the lighting in your home. Use night lights in the hallways and have a tap light by your bedside.
Have handrails and lights installed in all stairways. Wear shoes both inside and outside your home. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers or flip-flops.
Call Mary at the Douglas County Public Health Senior Office with questions, (320) 762-3047.
DOUGLAS COUNTY SENIOR COORDINATOR