Anyone can fall. But not everyone has to. It’s especially true for older adults. Falls are extremely common.
The facts are startling. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- One in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year.
- Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
- Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
- Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
- In 2015, the total cost of fall injuries was $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs.
- The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
- Falls, with or without injury, also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness.
Is there anything you can do to stack the odds in your loved one’s favor? Thankfully, there is! Encourage loved ones to eat a well-balanced diet, get regular medical check-ups, and have annual vision and hearing checkups. Encourage them to wear glasses and hearing aids if they have them and use their walker or cane if they need one. Review all their medications with a pharmacist and ask if any of them can cause dizziness or drowsiness.
Environmental factors can also increase the risk of a fall. Take a good look around your loved one’s home. Look for potential hazards including poor lighting, slippery or uneven floors, and clutter—and then do what you can to eliminate those hazards.
Here are few things you can do to make your loved one’s home safe:
- Use a rubber mat in the bath and shower.
- Install grab bars by the toilet and bath.
- Install a raised toilet seat and bath seat if needed.
- Store kitchen supplies in easy-to-reach locations.
- Remove throw rugs.
- Keep pathways clear and free of clutter.
- Tape electrical cords to the baseboard so they are out of the way.
- Wipe up spills immediately.
- Keep stairs clear.
- Fix or install new handrails.
- Install good lighting throughout the house and use nightlights in hallways.
- Make sure the exterior entrance is well lit.
- Store frequently used objects where they can be reached.
- Wear non-slip shoes or slippers in the house.
- If something is out of reach or requires a step stool, encourage your loved one to ask for help.
What else can you do? Encourage loved ones to slow things down. Rushing increases the chances of having a fall. Proper footwear for the weather conditions is also a must. Encourage loved ones to use mobility aids if they need them. And make sure they have help carrying those shopping bags if they need it.
Do what you can to help reduce the risk of falls. You’ll be helping elderly loved ones stay on their feet!