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Falls in the elderly

GLENN ELLIS | 11/12/2018, 6:36 a.m.
If you or an older person you know has fallen, you’re not alone.
An elderly person recovers in a rehabilitation facility after sustaIning an injury from a fall. Photographer: File photo

Strategies for Well-Being

If you or an older person you know has fallen, you’re not alone.

According to the CDC, 1 out of every 5 falls causes a serious injury requiring some form of hospitalization. Falls are also the most common cause of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, among the elderly.

With nearly 800,000 people hospitalized per year for a serious injury sustained as the result of a fall, senior falls are now one of the leading health concerns for our aging population.

In the United States, more than one-third of adults 65 and older fall each year. About 5.8 million people in this age group fell at least once during a recent three-month period.

Besides injuries caused by senior falls, the simple fear of falling can impact the lives of seniors by causing a reduction in their level of activity. This in turn leads to a decline in mobility and physical fitness, which can increase the actual risk of another fall.

Senior falls account for many injuries and even deaths, and the risk can be significantly reduced by using fall prevention practices or implementing a fall prevention program.

Additionally, a lack of muscle tone and stamina that occurs with older age can cause poor balance. Poor eyesight or dimly lit hallways, bathrooms and stairwells are also big causes of senior falls.

The fear of falling becomes more common as people age, even among those who haven’t fallen. It may lead older people to avoid activities such as walking, shopping or taking part in social activities.

Many things can cause a fall. Your eyesight, hearing and reflexes might not be as sharp as they were when you were younger. Diabetes, heart disease or problems with your thyroid, nerves, feet or blood vessels can affect your balance.

Some medicines can cause you to feel dizzy or sleepy, making you more likely to fall. Other causes include safety hazards in the home or community environment.

Scientists have linked several personal risk factors to falling, including muscle weakness, problems with balance and gait, and blood pressure that drops too much when you get up from lying down or sitting – called postural hypotension.

Foot problems that cause pain and unsafe footwear, like backless shoes or high heels, can also increase your risk of falling.

Confusion can sometimes lead to falls. For example, if you wake up in an unfamiliar environment, you might feel unsure of where you are. If you feel confused, wait for your mind to clear or until someone comes to help you before trying to get up and walk around.

Some medications can increase a person’s risk of falling because they cause side effects like dizziness or confusion. The more medications you take, the more likely you are to fall.

If you take care of your overall health, you may be able to lower your chances of falling. Most of the time, falls and accidents don’t “just happen.”

Here are a few tips to help you avoid falls and broken bones: