Did you know that every year, one in four older Americans fall? Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for people over 65. Millions of people age 65 and older fall each year, but fewer than half tell their doctor!
The good news is, most falls can be prevented! Falling really is not a normal part of aging! If you know the common factors that can lead to a fall, you can definitely reduce the chances of you or someone you love having one. Here are the main risk factors:
Balance and Gait: As we age, most of us lose some coordination, flexibility, and balance primarily through inactivity, making it easier to fall.
Vision: In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina making contrasting edges, tripping hazards, and obstacles harder to see.
Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, dehydration or interactions with each other that can lead to a fall.
Environment: Most seniors have lived in their homes for a long time and have never thought about simple modifications that might keep it safer as they age.
Chronic Health Conditions: More than 80% of older adults have at least one chronic condition like diabetes, stroke, or arthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling because they result in loss of function, inactivity, depression, pain, or multiple medications. (NCOA – National Council on Aging)
There are also behavioral risk factors that can result in a fall. Some of these are: being in a hurry, trying to do too many things at the same time, use of alcohol, not using assistive devices when needed, etc.
What can be done to prevent falls? You can actually change many of these risk factors!
One of the most important things you can do to prevent falls is an exercise to improve your balance and strength. It takes 50 hours every 6 months to improve balance. You would be amazed at the difference this makes! (Follow this blog for good exercises and exercise programs in future entries.)
Also, it is a good idea to ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medications at least yearly. A medication review can prevent drug interactions or other side-effects in order to reduce fall risk. Have your vision checked every year, even if you think it hasn’t changed. (Vision has a way of changing on us without our noticing it!)
Take steps to make your home safer by identifying and eliminating fall hazards in your home and community. An occupational therapist or physical therapist can help identify safety issues and solutions in your home. (If you would like information about Occupational therapists and Physical therapists in the Louisville area, give us a call!)
Watch this space for some amazing information you might not know about falls, including some great exercises!