Each year, one in every three adults ages 65 or older falls and two million are treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries. The risk of falling increases with each decade of life. The long-term consequences of fall injuries, such as hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries (TBI), can impact the health and independence of older adults. Thankfully, falls are not an inevitable part of aging. In fact, many falls can be prevented. Everyone can take actions to protect the older adults they care about.
Every 14 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury. Below are nine simple steps you can take today to make a big impact on falls for older adults and adults with disabilities in your community:
- Find a good balance and exercise program. Look to build balance, strength, and flexibility. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging for referrals. Find a program you like and take a friend.
- 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 or pharmacist. Make sure side effects aren’t increasing your risk of falling. Take medications only as prescribed.
- Get your vision and hearing checked annually and update your eyeglasses. Your eyes and ears are key to keeping you on your feet.
- Keep your home safe. Remove tripping hazards, 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.
- Check shoes, boots, and assistive devices and be sure that they are “winterized.”
- Encourage older adults to carry a Ziploc bag filled with a lightweight kitty litter in their pocket and cast it out ahead of themselves on very slick surfaces.
- ‘Tis the season for gift giving! Encourage adult children to give fall-proofing holiday gifts to their parents:
- Fall alarm systems that are motion triggered without hitting a button.
- Higher toilets in the home.
- Replace multifocal glasses with single vision eyeglass lenses.
- Grab bars in bathroom and next to outside steps or inside thresholds.
- Install firm stair railings on both sides of stairways and set automatic lights over stairways and by outside entrances.
- Cover the entryway to the home and provide a table to set down bags while finding keys.
- Give tiny flashlights to attach to keys, hats, and coat buttons. Shorter days mean more time in the dark.
We all want to protect our older family members and help them stay safe, secure, and independent where they live. Knowing how to reduce the risk of falling, a leading cause of injury, is a step toward this goal.