September – Fall Awareness Month

September is “Fall Prevention Awareness Month” so how can we help older adults (65 years and older) reduce the risk of falling?

The Stats of Falling

When we look at the stats about falling they are staggering.  Each year one in four adults over the age 65 will fall.  Out of 116 million older adults 29 million will fall this year.  Almost every second a person over 65 falls and every 13 seconds a person is taken to the emergency room because of the fall.  This is the results of 800,000 hospitalizations and 28,000 deaths as a result of a fall.  This is the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries about older adults.  As America’s baby boomers grow older falls will continue to grow.

Falls are costly. Medicare cost due to falls is in excess of $31 Billion and rising.  These costs will rise unless we can focus on fall prevention.

What can we do about fall prevention and what causes people to fall?

How to Reduce the Risk of Falls

We must first understand that Falling is Not a normal part of aging.  We can reduce our chances of falling if we learn to improve two main elements, our Environment and our Health.

Things we can do to reduce our environment would be to make our home and surroundings safer. Be cautious about things we can trip on. Keep areas where we walk clean and free from anything that may be a hazard.  Install grab bars if needed next to the bathtub and toilet. You can refer to our “Fall Prevention Guide and Checklist” for more details on what you can do to improve your environment.

Improving our Health is one of the biggest things we can do to prevent falls.  If you are worried about falling, talk to your healthcare provider about our concerns. He can review our medicines that may make us dizzy or sleepy and cause you to fall.   Have your eyes and feet checked at least once a year. Poor vision and improper footwear can increase your chances of falling.

Exercise is one of the biggest factors that can help reduce the risk of falling. Exercises that improve balance and make your legs stronger lower your chances of falling.  Lack of exercise leads to weakness and increases your chances of falling. There are many programs that help with balance and strengthen our muscles.

Assessing Fall Risk

You can and should ask your doctor for a fall screening at least once a year. It usually consists of gait analysis (watching and timing as your walk), a measurement of lower limb strength (such as repeatedly sitting and standing) and a questionnaire component that includes any fall history.  This lets the physician evaluate your mental state regarding falls. It is documented that a fear of falling usually increases a person’s risk of having a fall – often because he or she will limit activity, denying the body the practice it needs to remain capable of moving around.

If you feel that you might be at risk of falling reach out for help. There are many things you can do to improve your balance and reduce any hazards to avoid. There are many ways to improve our balance. Remember falling is not a normal part of aging.

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