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Wellness

Falls are common and costly, especially among Americans age 65 and older. But falls are preventable and do not have to be an inevitable part of aging.

Every second of every day, an older adult (age 65+) suffers a fall in the U.S., making falls the leading cause of injury and injury death in this age group. One out of four older adults will fall each year in the United States, making falls a public health concern, particularly among the aging population.

Facts about older adult falls

  • About 36 million older adults fall each year—resulting in more than 32,000 deaths.
  • Each year, about 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments for a fall injury.
  • One out of every five falls causes an injury, such as broken bones or a head injury.
  • Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling—usually by falling sideways.
  • Women fall more often than men and account for three-quarters of all hip fractures.

What you can do

Falls are not a normal part of aging. You can keep on your feet and avoid the risk of a fall. Take steps to stay safe and independent longer.

Speak up

  • Talk openly with your doctor about fall risks and prevention.
  • Tell your doctor right away if you have fallen, if you’re afraid you might fall, or if you feel unsteady.
  • Review all of your medicines with your doctor or pharmacist and discuss any side effects like feeling dizzy or sleepy. Some medicines, even over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements, can increase your fall risk.
  • Do you get dizzy or lightheaded when you go from sitting to standing? Talk to your doctor about these symptoms.
  • Have your eyes checked annually and update your glasses, as needed. Conditions like cataracts and glaucoma limit your vision.
  • Have your feet checked. Discuss proper footwear with your doctor and ask whether seeing a foot specialist (podiatrist) is advised.

Stay active

  • Do exercises that make your legs stronger and improve you balance (like Tai Chi).

Make your home safe

  • Get rid of trip hazards. Keep floors clutter free.
  • Remove throw rugs, or use double-sided tape or a non-slip backing so they won’t slip.
  • Add grab bars in the bathroom.
  • Keep things you use often on the lower shelves (about waist high).
  • If you must use a step stool, get one with a bar to hold on to. Never use a chair as a step stool.
  • Have handrails and lights installed on all staircases.
  • Put in a nightlight so you can see where you’re walking. Some nightlights go on by themselves after dark.

SeniorBridge offers resources to help patients reduce hazards in their homes, prevent falls and stay safer.

Sources
“Keep on Your Feet—Preventing Older Adult Falls,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/older-adult-falls/index.html, last accessed November 18, 2020
“A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/STEADI-Brochure-CheckForSafety-508.pdf, last accessed November 18, 2020

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