Fall Prevention - How to Lower Your Risk
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related visits to emergency departments in the United States and the primary etiology of accidental deaths in persons over the age of 65 years. The mortality rate for falls increases dramatically with age in both sexes and in all racial and ethnic groups, with falls accounting for 70 percent of accidental deaths in persons 75 years of age and older. Falls can be markers of poor health and declining function, and they are often associated with significant morbidity. More than 90 percent of hip fractures occur as a result of falls, with most of these fractures occurring in persons over 70 years of age. One third of community-dwelling elderly persons and 60 percent of nursing home residents fall each year. Risk factors for falls in the elderly include increasing age, medication use, cognitive impairment and sensory deficits.
Who is at high risk of falling?
Anyone can fall, although the risk is higher in older people. This increased risk of falling may be the result of changes that come with aging, and certain medical conditions, such as arthritis, cataracts or hip problems
What can I do to lower my risk of falling?
Most falls occur in the home. Consider the following tips to make your home safe:
Make sure that you have good lighting in your home. A well lit home will help you avoid tripping over objects that are not easy to see. Put night lights in your bedroom, hallways, stairs and bathrooms.
Rugs should be firmly fastened to the floor or have nonskid backing. Loose ends should be tacked down.
Electrical cords should not be lying on the floor in walking areas.
Put hand rails in your bathroom for bath, shower and toilet use.
Have rails on both sides of your stairs for support.
In the kitchen, make sure items are within easy reach. Don't store things too high or too low. Then you won't have to use a stepladder or a stool to reach them. It's also a good idea to avoid storing things too low, so you won't have to bend down to get them.
Wear shoes with firm nonskid soles. Avoid wearing loose-fitting slippers that could cause you to trip.
What else can I do?
Take good care of your body. Try to stay healthy by following these tips:
See your eye doctor once a year. Cataracts and other eye diseases that cause you not to see well, can lead to falls.
Get regular physical activity to keep your bones and muscles strong.
Take good care of your feet. If you have pain in your feet or if you have large, thick nails and corns, have your doctor look at your feet.
Talk to your doctor about any side effects you may have from your medicines. Problems caused by side effects from medicine are a common cause of falls. The more medicines you take, the greater your risk of falling.
Talk to your doctor if you have dizzy spells.
If your doctor suggests that you use a cane or a walker to help you walk, be sure to use it. This will give you extra stability when walking and will help you avoid falls.
Limit alcohol to no more than 2 drinks per day.
When you get out of bed in the morning or at night to use the bathroom, sit on the side of the bed for a few minutes before standing up. Your blood pressure takes some time to adjust when you sit up. It may be too low if you get up quickly. This can make you dizzy, and you might lose your balance and fall.