November 26, 2019 According to the CDC, falls are a major threat to the health and independence of older adults. Each year, 33% of older adults aged 65 and older experiences a fall. And if you fall once you are two to three times more likely to fall again. As a neurosurgeon, I have witnessed first hand the devastating results of falls in seniors. From severe head injuries to spine fractures and even paralysis, falling can have lifelong and life threatening consequences. Over 10% of all falls in those over 65 causes a serious injury, such as a hip fracture or head injury, which requires hospitalization. Some are never are able to live independently again.
I find the vast majority of falls were avoidable. Either through easy fixes, like removing throw rugs or wearing the proper shoes. But preventing falls also requires a lifestyle commitment to improve balance, tone muscles and keep your bones strong. Here are some common fall risk factors that the CDC has identified:
- Muscle weakness or balance problems
- Medication side effects and/or interactions
- Chronic health conditions such as arthritis and stroke
- Vision changes and vision loss
- Loss of sensation in feet
- Inactivity – Risky behaviors such as standing on a chair in place of a step stool
- Alcohol use
- Clutter and tripping hazards
- Poor lighting
- Lack of stair railings
- Lack of grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower
- Poorly designed public spaces
Attached HERE is a checklist provided by the CDC for you to learn about some simple fixes you can do at home to make you home safer and reduce fall risk. Ask your healthcare provide if there are any exercises you can do to improve the strength of your legs, hips and core muscles. Have you had a vision check lately? Are your medications or possible alcohol use affecting your balance? Are you refusing to use a walking aid, like a cane or walker that has been recommended to you? Do you have clutter around your bed that makes a trip to the bathroom dangerous?
These are just a few of the things you should be considering in order to prevent a life changing fall. Over the next several weeks I will use this blog to discuss some of simple ways you, your family and friends can start to understand what your fall risks might be, what you can personally do to avoid a fall. I will also introduce community resources that may be available to lower your fall risk. Stay TUNED!