Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for older Americans. They threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs. But falling is not an inevitable result of aging. Through practical lifestyle adjustments, evidence-based falls prevention programs and clinical-community partnerships, the number of falls among seniors can be substantially reduced.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 Americans aged 65 and older falls each year. Every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a fall and every 19 minutes an older adult dies from injuries sustained in a fall. In 2015, the CDC reports, older Americans experienced 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
The cost for these fall injuries was $50 billion, according to CDC data. The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
“Falls result in 28,000 deaths in older adults each year. More than 10,000 U.S. baby boomers turn 65 each day. This means that nearly seven baby boomers are turning 65 every minute,” said LaTrica Hicks, PhD, geriatric education coordinator at Parkland Health and Hospital System. “This increases the likelihood that fall-related injuries and deaths will leap in the coming years. That’s why preventing falls is a top priority for older adults, their families and caregivers.”
During September, Fall Prevention Awareness Month, Parkland’s Department of Geriatrics will host a series of free events to the public to emphasize that falls are preventable. At the events, Parkland will offer fall risk assessments and information about how to decrease your fall risk.
- Friday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Amelia Court Geriatrics Center and Senior Services, 1936 Amelia Court.
- Sept. 23 from 10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. at Lancaster Senior Center, 240 Veterans Memorial Parkway, Lancaster.
According to Hicks, there are many things seniors can do to decrease or prevent falls, such as:
- Begin a balance and exercise program to improve strength, flexibility and stability.
- Review your prescription and over-the-counter medications with your doctor or pharmacist regularly to make sure side effects are not increasing your fall risk. Take medications only as prescribed.
- Get your vision and hearing checked every year and update your eyeglasses with new prescription lenses as needed. If you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities, such as walking. Sometimes these types of lenses can make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.
- Keep your home safe by removing tripping hazards, improving lighting, installing grab bars where needed and making stairs safe.
- Talk to family members to get their support to help you stay safe.
- Talk to your health care provider about your fall risk and share your history of recent falls. Talk with them about specific things to help prevent falls.