One of the biggest dangers to people aged 65 and older isn’t cancer or other type of life-threatening disease. It’s falling. According to the CDC, falls are the top cause of “injury-related death” for Americans older than 65, and it appears to be increasing.In addition to leading to death, falls can cause serious injuries such as broken bones and concussions. Three million elderly are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. Chief among them are hip-related injuries, of which 95 percent are caused by falls.
If you or someone you love is 65 or older, it’s important to understand the top causes of falls and how to prevent them. Let’s take a closer look.
What Causes Falls?
There are a number of factors that contribute to an elderly person falling. These can include (but aren’t limited to):
- Muscle weakness, particularly in the lower body
- Vision problems
- Medicines that impair or disrupt the patient’s balance, such as sedatives, tranquilizers, and anti-depressants
- Chronic muscle or bone pain
- Household hazards, such as steps, throw rugs, or other clutter that can be tripped over
Chronic conditions can also play a major role, particularly heart disease, low blood pressure, and even dementia, which can cause dizziness.
How to Prevent Falls
Unfortunately, many of the conditions that cause falls are somewhat unavoidable. However, there are a number of things a patient and his/her family can do to reduce the likelihood of these conditions causing a fall. These include (but aren’t limited to):
- Installing hand rails and grab bars in key areas of the home, such as the bathroom but also along stairways and hallways.
- Increasing bright lighting, which can help people see better and avoid hazards.
- Removing clutter and tripping hazards such as throw rugs or loose carpet.
- Add nonslip materials to areas that can get slippery, such as bathroom floors, bathtubs, and even in the kitchen.
Depending on the age of the patient, it may also be a good idea to move to a single-floor occupancy, where stairs won’t pose any risks.
In addition to making modifications to the home, it’s essential that patients work every day to stay as healthy and fit as possible. This includes doing stretches every day, but it can also mean going for a daily walks, or even joining group fitness classes designed for the aged.
Lastly, it’s essential to talk to a patient’s doctor about any individual risks based on lifestyle, medicines, etc. Getting the patient’s vision checked regularly can also help ensure they have the right prescription on your glasses or contacts, potentially limiting the risk of falling due to a vision issue.