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May 3, 2014

Do all you can to prevent falls for seniors

Falls are a common problem for older adults. Every year, one in three adults age 65 and older falls, but less than half of the adults who fall talk to their health-care providers about their falls.

Falls among this age group are the leading cause of injuries, some of which are fatal. 

In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 662,000 of these were hospitalized. About 21,700 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries. The cost of fall care was $30 billion.

Twenty to thirty percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures or head traumas. Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries, and most fractures in that age group are related to falls.

Those injuries can result in a change in independence and may also increase the risk of early death. 

If people are uninjured in a fall, they may still develop a fear of falling. The fear may result in them limiting their activities, which then leads to a reduction in their mobility and loss of physical fitness, and in return can actually increase their risk of falling.

Our population consists of many aging adults, and it is important to understand the leading risks and to take the important measures to help keep everyone safe from falls. Most falls occur in the home and are preventable. So looking at ways for individuals to age in the comfort of their home, by adapting their living environment and improving, maintaining and preventing decline in function is important.

Environmental changes include simple home changes to improve safety:

• Make sure rooms, hallways and stairways are well-lit. Use brighter bulbs; add lighting, and night lights. 

• Remove clutter and tripping hazards, such as papers, boxes, shoes, clothes, etc.

• Arrange furniture arranged with clear pathways. Secure throw rugs with non-slip backing, or remove them. 

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