Senior Citizen Health: How to Prevent Falling

Mike Olmos by Mike Olmos | Licensed since 2010
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This article was updated on: 12/06/2016

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Falls pose a huge risk for Americans aged 65 and above. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Approximately 2.5 million elderly people are treated in emergency rooms every year because of falls.
  • One in three people over age 65 falls each year (falling once doubles your risk for a second fall).
  • One in five fallscauses a serious head injury or broken bones.
  • Over 95% of all hip fractures are caused by falls.

If you or someone you love is aged 65 or older, fall prevention is a major concern.

What are the main causes of falls?

The CDC has identified these risk factors as the main contributors to elderly falls:

  • Balance problems
  • Medications (such as anti-depressants and sedatives – but possibly medications or supplements bought over the counter) and medication side effects
  • Hazards in the home, such as stairs without handrails, loose rugs, and clutter on the floor
  • Foot pain, poorly fitting shoes
  • Not enough Vitamin D
  • Poor vision
  • Lower body weakness

Most falls by the elderly are caused by a combination of risk factors; the more you have, the greater the likelihood you will have a serious fall this year.

What fall prevention steps should I take in the home?

Fall prevention in the home is an important first step in minimizing your risk of injury from elderly falls. Check your home for these safety measures recommended by the CDC:

  • Install handrails on both sides of stairways and keep stairs in good repair. Make sure stairs are well lit.
  • Install carpet with dense pile and make sure all area rugs are firmly attached with tape to prevent slipping.
  • Make sure all loose items that someone could trip over are secured out of the way.
  • Install hand rails in the bath or shower and grab bars near the toilet.
  • Check for adequate lighting throughout the home; watch for glare or dark corners.

What should I ask my doctor about fall prevention?

Your doctor is a great first resource in fall prevention. To help counteract the risks listed above, you may want to ask your doctor about the following fall prevention measures:

  • Do you have vision problems? If you haven’t had your eyes checked recently, ask your doctor to check them.
  • If you are having foot pain or problems walking, ask your doctor to evaluate your feet and your footwear.
  • Poor lower body strength and balance issues contribute to falls. Ask your doctor if you are well enough to start an exercise program to build lower body strength and overall balance. Ask for recommendations for exercises or a senior citizenwellness class to help you reduce your risk.
  • Review your medications with your doctor, especially if you have any dizziness or sleepiness when you take them. Be sure to discuss any over-the-counter medicines you take.
  • Ask if you are a candidate for vitamin D and calcium supplements; these may reduce your risk of fracture if you do experience a fall.

These simple home safety measures can lower your chances for elderly falls and the serious injuries that often accompany them. You can find more information about fall prevention and home safety in these brochures from the CDC’s Stopping Elderly Accidents, Death and Injuries initiative.

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