Published on September 30, 2019
Falls are a common problem of the elderly and are recognized as the leading cause of their injury and death. As such, falls are considered a serious threat to the health of older adults. Not only are falls financially costly, it can also affect the quality of life of older adults and reduce their ability to remain independent.
Prevalence: Falls Are Common
We know that falls are a common occurrence, but do we have an idea as to the exact figures? Millions of older people—65 and older—fall each year. Actually, around more than 25% of Americans aged 65+ fall each year, but less than half will inform their doctor. Patients with previous fall or history of falls increase their chances of falling again.
The Problem: Falls Are Serious and Costly
Treating fall injuries is very costly. Medical costs for falls totaled to more than $50 billion in 2015. Incidence and cost will increase with age. Since there are over 10,000 people in the U.S. that turn 65 years old every day, it is expected that falls and fall injuries will increase and the cost to treat fall injuries is likely to rise. Here are some facts about falls from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Each year, millions of people 65 and older are treated in emergency departments because of falls.
- Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a broken hip or head injury.
- Fall injuries are among the 20 most expensive medical conditions.
- The average hospital cost for a fall injury is over $30,000.
- The cost of treating fall injuries goes up with age.
The Culprit: Risk Factors
One thing that we need to keep in mind is that falls are not part of aging and can be prevented. CDC has enumerated conditions that can make you more likely to fall. They include:
- Lower body weakness
- Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
- Difficulties with walking and balance
- Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.
- Vision problems
- Foot pain or poor footwear
- Home hazards or dangers such as
- broken or uneven steps, and
- throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over.
These are called risk factors and the more of them you have, the greater the chance you are going to experience a fall. Most falls are caused by a combination of multiple risk factors
The Solution: Falls are Preventable
The good thing is falls are not something that just happen when you age and there are proven ways to reduce falls. Aging does not have to mean that falling will be part of the process and nor do falls have to be a normal occurrence. Doctors and other healthcare providers such as physical, occupational and speech therapists can help cut down a person’s risk by reducing the fall risk factors. Aside from this, CDC has recommended simple things you can do to keep yourself from falling.
Talk to Your Doctor
- Ask your doctor or healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for falling and talk with them about specific things you can do.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy. This should include prescription medicines and over-the counter medicines.
- Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about taking vitamin D supplements.
Do Strength and Balance Exercises
- Do exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance. Tai Chi is a good example of this kind of exercise.
Have Your Eyes Checked
- Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year, and be sure to update your eyeglasses if needed.
- If you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities, such as walking. Sometimes these types of lenses can make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.
Make Your Home Safer
- Get rid of things you could trip over.
- Add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet.
- Put railings on both sides of stairs.
- Make sure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs.
Falls are a major problem for aging adults; however, it is possible to actively reduce risk factors to increase safety and reduce risk of injury. Contact us for more information on our Fall Prevention/Reduction program, and/or the services and amenities offered at Paragon Rehabilitation.