We are all susceptible to falls. But, older adults have an increased risk of falling, and the harm sustained can be more complicated than just your average cut, scrape or bruise. Serious injuries may occur in the form of fractured or broken bones and internal bleeding.
Each year, more than three million people 65 and older are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries. Unfortunately, fewer than half of them follow up with their primary physician about the accident, increasing the likelihood of another fall. Proper follow-up care can be instrumental in helping to identify and minimize risks for future falls.
Why Do Older People Fall?
Falls can occur for a variety of reasons. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists these common causes:
- Impaired vision—as you get older, your vision may not be as clear, making it more difficult to see tripping hazards.
- Health conditions–diabetes, heart disease and other health issues can affect your balance.
- Medications— sedatives and antidepressants can make you dizzy or sleepy. Other over-the-counter medicines may also lead to conditions that alter your balance.
- Weakness—can contribute to imbalance and falls.
- Vitamin D deficiency—a lack of bone strength can lead to weakness and falls.
- Foot pain or poor footwear—increase likelihood of tripping/falling.
- Hazards in the home—throw rugs that present tripping hazards or broken or uneven steps can increase the risk of falls.
- 7 Ways to Prevent Falls
As worrisome as the idea of falling can be, there is comfort in knowing that many falls can be prevented. Know your limitations.
- If you’re feeling dizzy or having difficulty with balance, talk with your doctor to determine why and whether there are any assistive devices, such as a cane or walker, that might improve your balance.
- Speak with your doctor and review your medications. Some medications may be contributing factors and increase your risk for falling. Often, there may be substitutions available. Also, speak to your physician about Vitamin D supplements and if they are needed.
- Have your vision and hearing checked once a year.
- Take your time. Rushing can increase a fall risk. When standing up, do so slowly. Standing up too fast can cause your blood pressure to drop, making you feel unbalanced.
- Wear non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes that provide good foot support and give you a good feel of the ground beneath you. Walking in socks can be slippery, particularly indoors and on stairs.
- Tell your doctor if you fall, even if you’re not hurt. The fall can signal a risk that should be addressed.
Consider whether anyone else can help you with tasks that involve climbing on a ladder, chair or other elevated platform.
- Although strong bones will not prevent a fall, they can make you less likely to get hurt. Being active can slow osteoporosis, and exercise improves your strength and flexibility.
Fear of Falling?
Understanding the risks of falling or suffering an actual fall can make you fearful, leading you to curtail activities. Remember, falls do happen. Ironically, avoiding normal activities and exercises may actually increase your risk for falls and serious injury. Instead, talk with your doctor about your concerns and work together on ways to decrease your risk of falling and increase your enjoyment of living.
Learn More About our Geriatric Care
At Orlando Health, our geriatric physicians have extensive experience caring for the special health problems of the elderly. We seek to balance quality-of-life issues with the risks of any possible tests or treatments.