By Donna Mischke, Director of Family Services at Concierge Care Advisors
According to the AARP, deaths from falls are increasing dramatically among adults age 65 and older. The National Council for Aging Care reports that every 11 seconds a senior is treated in the emergency room for a fall and every 19 minutes, an older adult dies as the result of a fall. The chance of falling increases with age and certain chronic diseases such as a history of stroke, arthritis, dementia and Parkinson’s increase the chance of a fall even more. Falls continue to rank among the top 10 causes of death for the elderly.
If you are over the age of 65 or have a loved one at risk, there are things you can do to help reduce the chance for a fall:
Make sure your home is clutter free – this means removing any tripping hazards including boxes, newspapers, or general clutter. All rugs and cords should be safely secured with tape and non-slip mats should be provided in the bathroom.
Wear good shoes – Indoors or outdoors, always have on good supportive non-skid shoes. Replace older shoes that are loose or stretched out and do not walk around in socks or stocking feet that may easily slide on floors.
Go to the eye doctor – eye exams should be done yearly to make sure prescription glasses are working properly.
Discuss medications with your doctor – know which medications you take that may put you at a higher risk for falling. Some medications may be better taken right before bed if they cause drowsiness or other interactions.
Upgrade your home – make sure to have handrails installed in the bathroom and light switches at the tops and bottoms of your stairs. Improve the lighting in your home and make sure to have night lights in the bedroom, bathroom and hallway. There are many inexpensive lighting options available. Always have a back up flashlight or some other light source in the case of a power outage.
Exercise safely – if you are not in a supervised setting, make sure to do exercises from a sitting position. Exercise and certain types of balance exercises can help to prevent future falls but always make sure you do this under the supervision of your doctor or someone who can assist you.
Talk to your doctor – ask what certain conditions may increase your risk of falls. If you have joint pain, shortness of breath or dizziness make sure your doctor knows and can help you decide the best plan for your health.
Always have a device on you – Carry a cell phone or some type of an emergency response system that will be easy to reach if you do fall and need medical assistance.
Consider a walker or a cane – if you have been unsteady in the past, or just need extra assistance, a cane or walker can be a great help in many situations.
Make household items easily accessible – always have everyday items like dishes, clothes and food at an easy reach so that bending down or reaching up high is not necessary.
Overall, falling is a very serious concern for the elderly. It is estimated that over two thirds of seniors who fall, will fall again within 6 months. 25% of seniors who fracture a hip from a fall may die within 6 months of the injury. Please seek assistance if you or a loved one is in fear of falling or has had previous falls. Anyone with a history of falls needs to have constant supervision to prevent future falls.