Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 09/28/2020 -- As the weather cools in the fall and with winter right around the corner it's a great time to think about a different kind of fall – actually preventing older adults from falling down and getting hurt- either in their home or unfamiliar and slippery outside locations.
Every 13 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a falls-related injury. According to the National Council on Aging, one in four Americans over the age of 65 falls each year and every 20 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that death rate from falls among older adults has risen sharply in the last decade.
Falls can cause hip fractures or head trauma, both of which can increase the risk of early disability or death for older adults. The good news is that many falls among older adults can be prevented with some planning and safety in mind.
"Outcomes of falls range from the minor cuts and bruises that anyone could expect to the worst possible results—disability and death," said Don Van Boerum, MD, trauma medical director at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. "Even with minor injuries, it can make it hard for a person to get around, do everyday activities, or live on their own."
Dr. Van Boerum said most falls are often preventable, and offered some tips to help keep senior adults on their feet and moving forward safely:
- Exercise regularly. Get up and move! Do exercises that improve balance and make legs stronger. Building muscles and keeping ligaments lean and strong helps individuals walk more confidently.
- Keep the home safe from falls. Remove tripping hazards, such as rugs and toys, increase lighting in low-light areas, make stairs safe by installing hand rails and non-slip surfaces and removing obstacles, and install grab bars in areas of uneven flooring and the bathroom. And be careful around small pets, one of the most common trip hazards for senior adults.
- Talk to family members or friends. Ask them to help you take simple steps to stay safe. An unsafe home increases the risk for falling for everyone, from the very young to the very old.
- Take extra precautions in unfamiliar environments. When visiting family members make sure their homes are also safe, by removing tripping hazards and adding increased lighting.
- Get vision and hearing checked every year and update eyeglasses. Senior's eyes and ears are key to keeping them on their feet.
- It's safest to have uniform lighting in a room. Add lighting to dark areas. Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare.
- Paint a contrasting color on the top edge of all steps so stairs can be seen better. For example, use a light color paint on dark wood.
- Regularly review medications with a doctor and/or pharmacist. This includes medications prescribed by all healthcare providers and any over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, supplements, or herbs being used. Some combinations may cause side effects that increase dizziness or risk of falling. Take medications only as prescribed.
- Consult with doctor to assess the risk for falling. And make sure to share medical history of any recent falls.
- Get up slowly after sitting or lying down. Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or just wearing socks or slippers.
- Take a Tai Chi for Arthritis/Health class. The Utah Department of Health is offering free virtual classes. Tai Chi for Arthritis/Health classes incorporates exercises that improve muscular strength, flexibility and fitness. The Tai Chi for Arthritis/Health program also focuses on weight transference, which improves balance and prevents falls. Sign up at https://livingwell.utah.gov.
About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see Intermountain Healthcare or the Intermountain Healthcare Blog.
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