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  • 1 out of 3 people 65 years old and older will fall.
  • Hip fractures from falling: 25% recover fully, 40% require a stay in a nursing home, 50% are dependent on a cane or walker and 20% die within 1 year.
  • There are many physical treatments for someone who is “dizzy”.
  • Falls are the leading cause of injuries that require an emergency room visit.
  • Seek the advice of a Physical Therapist to get instructions on exercises and activities to help prevent a fall.

Falling can happen at any time and any place. People of any age slip, stumble, trip and fall, but it is more likely among older people. 1 out of 3 people 65 years old and older will fall and suffer injury that requires medical attention. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in people 65 or older and can steal away their independence. Many of these injuries can be prevented. By implementing a few simple measures, you help prevent falls.

Falling and the Elderly

The older population often fears falling, and unfortunately many of them fall anyway. The fall causes injury, and the injury may be severe and require medical attention. They may suffer fractures in the upper extremities, pelvis or hips, and face hospitalization to “fix” the fracture. Traumatic brain injuries can occur if they hit their heads when they fall. All of this can lead to a decrease in the ability to move and be independent. If their functional limitations are great enough they might have to move from their home and enter an assisted living or long-term care facility. Falls are not inevitable in the older population and do not have to be a “part” of their life if they take some precautions along the way.

The pattern of falls that occurs in the elderly is unique but shared by most. All of us can benefit by following a tips on fall prevention.

Fall Prevention Guidelines

Medications:   A list of medications that a person takes should be maintained and updated regularly. These medications should be discussed in detail with the doctor because some of them might make the person more prone to falling. Some of these medications might not be needed or the dosage of use can be decreased to reduce the chance of causing a fall.

Activity level: As people age they tend to become more sedentary. The natural aging process includes a loss of muscle mass, slower reaction time, reduced eyesight and other physical and mental changes that can increase the chances of a fall. Poor eye sight and health conditions that effect balance (vertigo) are more prominent in the elderly population and can be a major cause of falling. Arthritic joints can limit mobility and the pain in the joint can cause a decrease in reaction time. Cardiovascular condition decreases because the system is not exercised enough. If someone is out and about and becomes “short of breath” this can lead to a fall.

It is essential for the elderly and all of us to remain active. First, all new activity should be “cleared” by the doctor, and a Physical Therapist can provide a proper exercise regimen.  This routine must address strength, cardiovascular and balance deficits that are found in most elderly people. The human body can be physically and mentally trained at any age. Physical strength and cardiovascular fitness can improve at any age. Many falls occur secondary to core and lower extremity weakness and the inability of the person to react fast enough or have the proper amount of strength that is needed to “catch” themselves and prevent the fall. Simply walking, cycling, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and performing strength exercises such as “sit to stands” while at home on a daily basis can be the foundation of the routine.

fall preventionThe surroundings: More than half of the falls occur at home. Maintaining an uncluttered and hazard-free home is extremely important. Many elderly people have lived in their home or residence for a long time and have accumulated a lot of prized possessions and clutter that can lead to a fall. Some of the items in their household are older and should have been replaced.

The floorplan should be examined and changed if necessary. Keep areas that are “traveled” clear of clutter. Make sure carpets are secure to the floor. Keep the area brightly lit. Avoid using extension cords because they can be a fire hazard and end up in a walking path and cause someone to trip.

Personal: Everyone has to accept the fact that they are going to get older. Taking some time to evaluate personal habits can have a profound effect on the incidence of falls.

  • They must remain active.
  • They should limit their alcohol intake and eliminate smoking. These can lead to a host of physical ailments and lead to a fall.
  • Proper diet is important to enable the body to have the nutrients needed to maintain the bones and muscle mass.
  • Proper shoes and clothing can eliminate the possibility of a fall being caused by ill-fitting clothing or slippery shoes.

Unfortunately, falling is a part of life that can occur in any age group and at any time.   Many of these falls are severe enough that a trip to the emergency room is warranted. If people would take a slower, more controlled approach to life’s activities and take the necessary precautions many falls could be avoided.

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