by Kevin K. Johnson, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Do you know that September 22nd is ‘officially’ recognized as Falls Prevention Awareness Day?
Now is a good time to remind all caregivers that falls are a significant cause of severe health trauma for seniors. Did you know that every 15 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury! That is an alarming statistic. So what can we do to address fall prevention in older adults?
WHY FOCUS ON FALLS?
Falls remain the leading cause of injury death for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs. CDC’s Injury Center monitors falls, fall-related injuries, and associated costs, reporting:
- In 2009, more than 20,400 older Americans died from injuries related to unintentional falls.
- In 2010, over 2.3 million older Americans were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries from falls and more than 662,000 were hospitalized. CDC reports the death rate from falls among older adults has increased by 42% from 2000 to 2006.
- The total cost of fall injuries for older Americans was estimated to be $30 billion (in 2010 dollars). By 2020, the annual direct and indirect cost of fall injuries is expected to reach $54.9 billion.
In addition to pain and suffering, and the high cost of rehabilitation, 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, often self-limit activities and social engagements. Resulting limitations can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness.
This potentially bleak future for aging Americans is not inevitable; evidence-based interventions that target individual risk factors for falling have been shown to reduce falls and promote falls self-efficacy.
Consider these 6-steps to fall prevention that an older adult might undertake.
- Find a Good Balance and Exercise Program. For example, Fairhill Partners, a non-profit organization in Cleveland, Ohio offers a program designed specifically for older adults titled “Matter of Balance”. The program emphasizes practical strategies to manage falls. Participants learn to:
- View falls and fear of falling as controllable
- Set realistic goals to increase activity
- change their environment to reduce fall risks factors
- exercise to increase strength and balance
- Talk to Your Health Care Provider. Ask for an assessment of your risk of falling. Share your history of recent falls.
- Regularly Review Your Medications with Your Doctor and/or Pharmacist. Make sure side effects are not increasing your risk of falling. Take medications only as prescribed.
- Get Your Vision and Hearing Checked Annually and Update Your Eyeglasses Perscription. Your eyes and ears are key to keeping you on your feet.
- Keep Your Home Safe. Remove tripping hazrds, increase lighting, make stairs safe, and install grab bars in key areas.
- Talk to your Family Members. Enlist their support in taking simple steps to stay safe. Falls are not just a seniors’ issue.
Source: National Council on Aging