“Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among persons aged 65 and older,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Falls can lead to hip fractures, head trauma, and death. “About 27,000 older adults died because of falls in 2014; 2.8 million were treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries, and about 800,000 of these patients were hospitalized.” About 60 percent of falls happen at home.
The CDC offers strategies to reduce the number of older adult falls, including working with the physician for strength and balance exercises to boost physical mobility; medication adjustments; and vitamin D supplements to improve bone, muscle, and nerve health.
Patients are advised to tell their doctor of any medication side effects, such as fatigue, foot numbness, or dizziness, which may increase fall risks. Without intervention, various ear and eye disorders may increase the likelihood of falling.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) states that injuries from falls “can make it difficult to get around or live independently, and they increase the risk of early death.” Once a senior falls, they may develop a constant fear of falling, and limit their activities. This leads to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, which ultimately increases the actual risk of falling.
Experts recommend exercise programs to encourage seniors to move more and stay strong to be better equipped to avoid mishaps. Walking, gardening, and exercising with a physical therapist may be beneficial.
Wearing sturdy shoes with non-skid soles -- instead of loose slippers or stocking feet -- may help prevent falls. Removing obstacles, clutter, throw rugs, and other tripping hazards in the home helps, too. Using walkers as often as prescribed, and installing handrails, grab-bars, and extra lighting throughout the house help seniors stay safe.
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