Facts about Falls and the Elderly
- Each year, more than one in four adults age 65 and older falls.
- In 2015, falls among older adults cost the U.S. healthcare system almost $50 billion.
- More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling. About three-quarters of all hip fractures occur in women.
- The majority of hip fracture patients will not make a full recovery. Many will require nursing home admission or be dependent upon a cane or a walker. Some hip fracture patients will die within one year of the fall.Causes
Many things can put you at higher risk for a fall, such as certain medical conditions or poor dietary habits.
Medical Risk Factors
- Impaired musculoskeletal function, gait abnormality and osteoporosis
- Cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), blood pressure fluctuation
- Depression, Alzheimer’s disease and senility
- Arthritis, hip weakness and imbalance
- Neurologic conditions, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis
- Urinary and bladder dysfunction
- Vision or hearing loss
- Cancer that affects the bones
- Side effects of medications
Personal Risk Factors
- Age. The risk for a fall increases with age. Normal aging affects our eyesight, balance, strength, and ability to quickly react to our environments.
- Activity. Lack of exercise leads to decreased balance, coordination, and bone and muscle strength.
- Habits. Excessive alcohol intake and smoking decrease bone strength. Alcohol use can also cause unsteadiness and slow reaction times.
- Diet. A poor diet and not getting enough water will deplete strength and energy, and can make it hard to move and do everyday activities.
Risk Factors in the Home
- Many falls are the result of hazards like slippery or wet surfaces, poor lighting, inadequate footwear, and cluttered pathways in the home.
- Most fractures are the result of a fall in the home, usually related to everyday activities such as walking on stairs, going to the bathroom, or working in the kitchen.
Home Modifications To Prevent Falls
Research shows that even simple safety modifications, such as those at home where most senior falls occur, can substantially cut the risk of falls and related injuries.
- Place a lamp, telephone, or flashlight near your bed.
- Sleep on a bed that is easy to get into and out of.
- Arrange clothes in your closet so that they are easy to reach.
- Install a nightlight along the route between your bedroom and the bathroom.
- Keep clutter off the bedroom floor.
- Arrange furniture so you have a clear pathway between rooms.
- Keep low-rise coffee tables, magazine racks, footrests, and plants out of the path of traffic.
- Install easy-access light switches at room entrances so you will not have to walk into a dark room in order to turn on the light. Glow-in-the-dark switches also may be helpful.
- Walk only in well-lighted rooms, stairs, and halls.
- Do not store boxes near doorways or in hallways.
- Keep electric, appliance and telephone cords out of walkways, but do not put cords under a rug.
- Do not run extension cords across pathways; rearrange furniture.
- Secure loose area rugs with double-faced tape, tacks, or slip-resistant backing.
- Do not sit in a chair or on a sofa that is so low that it is difficult to stand up.
- Remove throw rugs.
- Clean up immediately any liquids, grease, or food spilled on the floor.
- Store food, dishes, and cooking equipment within easy reach.
- Light switches should be at the top and bottom of the stairs. Or, consider installing motion-detector lights which turn on automatically when someone walks by.
- Provide enough light to clearly see each stair and the top and bottom landings.
- Remove loose area rugs from the bottom or top of the stairs.
- Put non-slip treads on each bare-wood step.
- Install handrails on both sides of the stairway. Each should be 30 inches above the stairs and extend the full length of the stairs.
- Repair loose stairway carpeting or wooden boards immediately.
- Place a slip-resistant rug adjacent to the bathtub for safe exit and entry.
- Install grab bars on the bathroom walls.
- Keep a nightlight in the bathroom.
- Use a rubber mat or place nonskid adhesive textured strips inside the tub.
- Replace glass shower enclosures with non-shattering material.
- Stabilize yourself on the toilet by using either raised seat or a special toilet seat with armrests.
- Use a sturdy, plastic seat in the bathtub if you cannot lower yourself to the floor of the tub or if you are unsteady.
What to Do If You Fall
- Do not panic. Assess the situation and determine if you are hurt.
- Slide or crawl along the floor to the nearest couch or chair and try to get up.
- If you cannot get up, call for help.
- If you are alone, slowly crawl to the telephone and call 911 or relatives.