The first day of fall marks Falls Prevention Awareness Day. Falls are the leading cause of injury related emergency department (ED) visits for older adults, the major cause of hip fractures, and responsible for more than half of fatal head injuries. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3 million older persons are treated in the ED each year for falls, 800,000 of which require hospital admission. This is why Governor Larry Hogan has issued a state proclamation declaring September 23-29 Falls Prevention Awareness Week, to raise awareness about how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults.
Falling is NOT an inevitable part of aging. Through practical lifestyle adjustments, evidence-based programs, and community partnerships, the number of falls among seniors can be reduced substantially. Here is a brief list of what to assess for concerning your, or a loved ones, risk for falling:
Fall History and confidence– There is a STRONG correlation between a history of falling and lack of balance confidence for future falls
Age– inevitable. Changes occur with the aging process (unique to each individual over 62 years of age) include the potential of increased comorbidities (medical conditions), vision, strength or flexibility, balance and reaction changes, changes in medications, cognitive changes, and pain.
Vision– Get annual eye exams. While many think of issues with decreased lighting around the home, people may neglect to realize “glares” can be blinding also. Suggestions to assist with vision around the home are motion sensor night lights for decreased lighting and closing home blinds during the day when there is a glare.
Medication– It is crucial that people ask their Primary Care Doctor and pharmacist the impact of newly prescribed medications may have on things like blood pressure, feeling tired or fatigued, dizziness and/or motor control as well as any potential cross interactions with other current medications. Make sure all medications are filled at same pharmacy, but most importantly, if there is a single medication that is filled through mail order, let your primary pharmacy know about it. They can cross check that prescription with you other ones to make sure they are safe to take.
Environmental– removing area rugs from your home and performing a scan of the indoor/ outdoor path prior to walking to allow yourself to walk without looking at your feet. Be proactive and prepared! Be aware of your pets and your balance reactions. Additionally, if you live in a home with small children, make sure that toys are out of you walking path and off of stairs.
Some other home suggestions are to remove clutter, provide home modification recommendations for grab bars, shower benches, raised toilet seats etc. Resources are available for free in home inspections and assistance in making your home a safe place to live (see links bellow for the Maryland Department of Aging).
Urinary frequency/Urgency – rushing increases you risk for falling. Limit fluids a couple hours before bedtime (but drink plenty of water during the daytime!) and make a bathroom schedule versus waiting until time is of the essence.
Balance deficits and Assistive devices– using a walker, cane, etc as recommended and intended. Relying on unstable or moving objects, i.e. a car door, nightstand, chair, is an increased risk of injury/falling.
Please! Talk to your doctor and family if you are noticing changes in your balance or have started to have falls.
For more information and resources, please check out these helpful links below