Fall prevention is something that people don’t pay much attention to until a fall affects them or a loved one. Unfortunately, many people will be affected by falls as they are quite common and very costly. Consider the following statistics:
Of those over age 65, one in four fall each year.
Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries among the senior population.
In 2010, more than 2.3 million Americans were treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries.
Each year, over 300,000 people age 65 and older are hospitalized for hip fractures caused by a fall. Many people are unable to recover, causing loss of independence and a downward spiral of physical and mental health.
The medical cost of treating fall-related injuries is over 30 billion each year. This number is projected to skyrocket in the coming years as the population is aging, and the cost to treat those injuries will likely rise.
Many things can cause a fall. As people age, their eyesight, hearing, and reflexes might not be as sharp as they once were. Diabetes, heart disease, or problems with the thyroid, nerves, feet, or blood vessels can affect a person’s balance. Some medicines can cause dizziness, making a fall more likely. Falls aren’t a normal part of getting older, and there are many steps you can take to help prevent falls and maintain health and independence:
Stay physically active. Plan an exercise program that is right for you. Be sure to include specific exercises to work on balance.
Have your eyes and hearing tested. Even small changes in sight and hearing may cause you to fall. When you get new eyeglasses, take time to get used to them.
Find out about the side effects of any medicine you take. If a drug makes you sleepy or dizzy, tell your doctor or pharmacist.
Get enough sleep. If you are sleepy, you are more likely to fall.
Stand up slowly. Getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop. That can make you feel wobbly.
Use a cane or walker if you need help feeling steady when you walk. Make sure it is the right size for you and the wheels roll smoothly. This is very important when you're walking in areas you don't know well or in places where the walkways are uneven.
Be very careful when walking on wet or icy surfaces. Better yet, don’t even go out when it’s wet or icy!
Wear non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes or lace-up shoes with non-skid soles that fully support your feet. Don't walk around in socks or in shoes and slippers with smooth soles.
Most falls happen in the home. Following are some changes you can make in your surroundings:
Have sturdy handrails on both sides of stairs and use them! If you must carry something while you're on the stairs, hold it in one hand and use the handrail with the other. Don't let what you're carrying block your view of the steps.
Make sure there is good lighting with light switches at the top and bottom of stairs and on each end of a long hall.
Keep areas where you walk free of clutter. Don't leave books, papers, clothes, and shoes on the floor or stairs.
Check that all carpets are fixed firmly to the floor so they won't slip. Don't use throw rugs or small area rugs.
Mount grab bars near toilets and on both the inside and outside of your tub and shower.
Place non-skid mats, strips, or carpet on all surfaces that may get wet.
Remember to turn on night lights and keep a light by your bed.
Keep electric cords and telephone wires away from walking paths.
Arrange your furniture, especially low coffee tables, so they are not in your way when you walk.
Make sure your sofas and chairs are the right height for you to get in and out of them easily.
Keep items you use often within easy reach.
Don't stand on a chair or table to reach something that's too high — use a "reach stick" instead or ask for help. If you use a step stool, make sure it is steady and has a handrail on top.
Taking a fall can be a frightening and life-changing experience, especially for the elderly and those living alone. With a few simple changes, you can avoid broken bones and injuries, remain independent, and live a long, healthy, happy life.
For more information on any orthopedic problem, call 309-663-6461 to schedule an appointment with the board-certified physicians at McLean County Orthopedics or visit their website at www.mcleancountyorthopedics.com. Their new office is at 1111 Trinity Lane in Bloomington.Back to Top
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