For Older People, Falling May Be a Preventable Injury

For Older People, Falling May Be a Preventable Injury

Slip-and-fall accidents can happen anywhere to anyone. Of course, the risk of falling and getting injured increases with age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that one in three adults aged 65 and older falls each year, and these older adults are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than they are for injuries from other causes. Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and can increase the risk of early death. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and about 25,500 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries in 2013.

Emergency departments treat about 2.5 million nonfatal fall injuries among the elderly every year, and more than 30 percent of these patients have to be hospitalized.

Fractures are both the most common and most costly nonfatal injuries. Just over one-third of nonfatal injuries are fractures, but these account for about 61 percent of total nonfatal costs. In 2013, the direct medical costs of older-adult falls, adjusted for inflation, were $34 billion, and were expected to keep rising.

While the numbers are frightening, there are precautions that can be taken to help older adults remain independent, decrease their chances of falling and reduce the severity of possible injuries if a fall cannot be avoided. Many Georgia senior centers offer tai chi programs and balance programs that can help benefit physical fitness as well as mental focus. Here are some other tips:

  • Exercise regularly. Do exercises that focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance, and get more challenging over time.
  • Review medication. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to evaluate your medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to identify those that may have dizziness or drowsiness as side effects.
  • Get your eyes checked. Poor vision can make it harder to get around safely. Have your eyes examined by an eye doctor at least once a year and wear glasses or contact lenses with the right prescription strength.
  • Keep a flashlight by the bed and use it if you have to get up at night. At the very least, place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
  • Wear sensible shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers, high heels or shoes with slick soles. Instead wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles.
  • Eliminate home hazards. Remove clutter from stairs and places where you walk. Don’t use small throw rugs; if you do, at least attach them with double-sided tape to keep them from slipping. Place items you use often in cabinets you can reach easily without getting on your tiptoes or using a step stool.
  • Use assistive devices.
    • A cane or walker to keep you steady
    • Hand rails for both sides of stairways
    • Nonslip treads for bare-wood steps
    • Grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet
    • A sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub — plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down.

As you get older, physical changes and health conditions make falls more likely and their consequences more serious. However, implementing a few fall-prevention strategies can help ease your mind and make your life easier.

If you have any questions about this topic or believe that someone else’s negligence caused your fall, contact the Mann Law Firm by calling (478) 742-3381 or filling out this convenient online contact form.