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Falls in Older Adults

Did you know that falls are the leading cause of non-fatal and fatal injuries for adults age 65 years and older? Falls can lead to reduced mobility, limited activity and even death. Just one fall can be a life changer – it can be the beginning of the end of your independence.

A few fast facts about falls.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each and every year:

  • One in three older adults fall and one in five falls causes a serious injury
    2.5 million older adults are treated in emergency departments and more than 700,000 are hospitalized for an injury sustained from a fall
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling with at least 250,000 older adults are hospitalized for hip fractures
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries
  • More than $34 billion in medical costs are spent

What causes you to fall?

In a nutshell, you can fall when you experience something that challenges your strength, balance and your ability to remain upright. Many conditions – physical, environmental and situational – can increase your risk to fall. Risk factors include:

Physical Conditions:

  • Poor vision
  • Medications
  • Foot pain / numbness or shoes with slippery soles
  • Lower body weakness or lack of muscle strength
  • Chronic health conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease

Environmental Conditions:

  • Poor lighting
  • Lack of stair railings or grab bars in the bathroom
  • Loose throw rugs or clutter on the floor
  • Slippery or uneven floors
  • Uneven or broken sidewalks, walkways or steps

Situational Conditions:

An occasional or temporary event – period of low blood pressure, pet pulling on a leash suddenly, wind or rain storm

Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. It’s simple, the more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to fall. The good news – you can reduce your risk or prevent a fall altogether. Here are a few simple tips:

  • Talk to your doctor about evaluating your fall risks and what you can do to decrease your risk.
  • Exercise regularly to improve strength and balance.
  • Have your vision checked.
  • Talk to your pharmacist about your medications.
  • Make your home safer by installing grab bars or handrails, removing clutter and loose rugs and installing additional light sources or brighter light bulbs.
  • Wear shoes with low or flat heels and nonslip soles, no slippers.

Since falls in older adults are so common, there’s an abundance of information available online — here are just a few articles that may help you stay on your feet.

Merck Manual: Falls in the Elderly 6 Things That Cause the Elderly to Fall

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preventing Falls Among Older Adults