One major challenge our older Americans encounter on a daily basis is the possibility of falling and injuring themselves.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four seniors 65 and older fall every year. One out of five of those falls result in serious injury, such as a head trauma or broken bones. Not only are these falls serious, they are costly. Three million of our elders are treated in emergency departments annually and 800,000 are hospitalized for hip fractures or head injuries. Just in 2015 alone, the medical costs for those falls totaled $50 billion.
There is no question that our seniors face mobility issues, but we need to help educate our older Americans on the causes of falls and how to prevent them. It is important for our seniors to understand falls are preventable and plenty of national organizations do an excellent job annually of building awareness through the Falls Prevention Day (FPAD) campaign. To help bring awareness, the National Council on Aging will be hosting a Live FPAD Facebook event on September 20th at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. NCOA will discuss medication management and strategies to avoid misuse and abuse with a pharmacist. Additionally, NCOA will host a live FPAD Twitter Chat on September 25th at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time. A panel of experts from the CDC Injury Center and the Administration for Community Living will discuss fall prevention strategies.
To share resources and tips, use the hashtag #FPAD2018.
By building awareness, we hope our elders will understand how falls can happen. The National Institute of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center offers these tips on why seniors fall:
- Tripping or slipping due to loss of footing or traction
- Slow reflexes, which make it hard to maintain balance or move way from hazards
- Balance problems
- Reduced muscle strength
- Poor vision
- Taking medications
- Drinking alcohol
Understanding the causes of falls can go a long way in helping our seniors protect themselves from injury. Our previous Fall Prevention blog post offers excellent tips on how to protect yourself from injury, however, these strategies by The Mayo Clinic can be investments in your independence:
Make an appointment with your physician-this is the key to establishing a successful plan to evaluate the medications you're taking and whether there are potential side effects. Also, discussing previous fall history and evaluating current health conditions that could result in falls is crucial.
Keep moving-establishing an exercise plan can go a long way helping prevent falls. It is a good idea to check with your physician first before starting exercise routine. By walking, joining a tai chi or water aerobics class, you will increase balance, strength and flexibility that will reduce the risk of falls.
Wear sensible shoes- eliminate footwear that makes it easier to tumble, fall or slip.
Remove home hazards- remove clutter from walkways and high traffic areas. Secure rugs and loose carpet. Use nonslip mats in tub and shower. Keep food, dishes and necessities in easy to reach areas.
Light up living areas-keep home brightly lit to avoid tripping. Keep nightlights in your bedroom, hallways and bathrooms. Ensure front and back doors have plenty of lighting. Store flashlights in accessible locations in case of power outage.
- Use walking devices if necessary-using canes and walkers can be helpful, and don't forget handrails and grab bars in the shower and tub.
With Fall Prevention Day fast approaching, help us educate our seniors on how they can protect themselves from dreadful falls. Who knows, by simply engaging and sharing stories in your local community or social media, you may help save the life of an older American.