Updated: Sep 6
When September arrives, autumn isn't far behind, which means it's time to draw attention to the topic of fall prevention. Why do we need to talk about this every year? It's because so many older adults are affected and the impacts can be devastating.
The statistics are sobering. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other falls research:
More than one out of four Americans age 65+ falls each year.
Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults.
The cost of treating injuries caused by falls is projected to increase to over $101 billion by 2030.
Falls result in more than 3 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations.
In 2015, the total cost of non-fatal fall injuries was $50 billion.
Each year about $754 million is spent on medical costs related to fatal falls.
For older adults in the U.S., fall death rates went up by 30% from 2007-2016, and researchers predict there will be 7 deadly falls every hour by 2030.
People with mild hearing loss are nearly three times as likely to fall, with each 10 decibels of hearing loss increasing fall risk.
The majority (60%) of falls happen in the home, 30% in a public setting, and 10% in a health care center.
Falls, with or without injury, also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness.
The staff at Takacs McGinnis works with many older adults. We have seen firsthand the devastation that falls can cause. For many people, a fall is the event that marks the beginning of the long-term care journey. Hip fractures are the most common fall-related injury, and they’re one of the top reasons why a person must move from their home to an assisted living or long-term care facility.
What causes falls? It can be anything. Personal risk factors include:
Changes in strength, balance and mobility
Low blood sugar
Poor nutrition or dehydration
Environmental factors can also increase fall risk. The bathroom and stairs are particularly dangerous. Take a good look around your home and be aware of hazards including poor lighting, slippery or uneven floors, and clutter.
If you or someone you love is a fall risk, there's a lot you can do to decrease the chances. Engaging in physical activity every day is your best defense. Staying active will help improve your balance and keep you strong. Take a short walk or try Tai Chi. Eat a well-balanced diet, get regular medical check-ups, and have your vision and hearing tested each year. Wear your glasses and hearing aids if you have them and use your walker or cane if you need one. Review all your medications with a pharmacist and ask if any of them can make you dizzy or drowsy.
The good news is that most falls can be prevented. If you’re a caregiver, you have the power to reduce your loved one’s risk of falling, and your own fall risk as well. You can be a partner and a participant in falls prevention.
Try these fifteen simple things you can do to make your home safe:
Use a rubber mat in the bath and shower.
Install grab bars by the toilet and bath.
Use a raised toilet seat and bath seat if you need them.
Store kitchen supplies in easy-to-reach locations.
Remove throw rugs.
Keep pathways clear and free of clutter.
Tape electrical cords to the baseboard so they are out of the way.
Wipe up spills immediately.
Keep stairs clear.
Fix or install new handrails.
Have good lighting throughout the house and use nightlights in hallways.
Make sure your exterior entrance is well lit.
Store frequently used objects where they can be reached.
Wear non-slip shoes or slippers in the house.
If something is out of reach or requires a step stool, ask someone else to get it for you.
How can you prevent a fall when you leave your house? Don’t be in a hurry! Rushing increases your chances of having a fall so leave lots of time to get to where you are going. Wear proper footwear for the weather and conditions. Lots of ice or snow? Decide if you really must leave the house. Use mobility aids if you need them and don’t try to carry too many bags that can throw you off balance.
If you’re looking after an older relative who may be at risk of falls, the National Council on Aging’s Falls Prevention Conversation Guide is an excellent resource. Use it if you or the person you are caring for has had a fall, is experiencing decreased mobility, is unsteady on their feet, or is fearful of falling. Use it to talk with other members of your family or health care professionals about creating a falls prevention action plan.
Fall prevention starts with you. Take steps today to reduce the risk and stay on your feet!
1. Older Adult Falls Reorted by State. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Found on the internet at https://www.cdc.gov/falls/data/falls-by-state.html
2. Keep on Your Feet—Preventing Older Adult Falls. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Found on the internet at https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/older-adult-falls/index.html
3. Houry D, Florence C, Baldwin G, Stevens J, McClure R. The CDC Injury Center's response to the growing public health problem of falls among older adults. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2016 Jan-Feb; Found on the internet at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4681302/
4. Facts About Falls. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Found on the internet at https://www.cdc.gov/falls/facts.html
5. Florence C, Burgen G, Atherly A, et. al. Medical Costs of Fatal and Nonfatal Falls in Older Adults. J Am Geriatric Soc. 2018. Found on the internet at https://agsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jgs.15304
6. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Hearing Loss Linked to Three-Fold Risk of Falling. 2012. Found on the internet at https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_linked_to_three_fold_risk_of_falling
7. Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). Addressing Falls Prevention Among Older Adults, Part I. Found on the internet at https://www.hss.edu/conditions_addressing-falls-prevention-older-adults-understanding.asp