“Older adults want to stay active, independent, and safe in their homes, but many worry about their risk of falling,” said Sally Aerts, falls prevention specialist with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH). “In fact, one out of three older adults will fall at least once this year. But falling is not a normal part of aging and older adults have the power to prevent a fall.”
Data from the UDOH show that falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injury-related hospital admissions in Utah, costing more than $104 billion in 2013 alone. Sixty-eight percent of Utahns aged 65 and older who fell sustained a fracture of some kind (nearly one-fourth of these were hip fractures). Other common injuries resulting from falls include: traumatic brain injuries (17%), spinal fractures (12.1%), and broken ribs (7.3%).
“Our goal is to help seniors remain healthy and independent. One fall can be the beginning of a downward health spiral that may include limited mobility, dementia from a head injury, and complications from major surgeries like blood clots and seizures. Even minor falls can impact a person’s sense of safety and well-being,” commented Aerts.
The majority of older adult falls which require hospitalization happened in the home, with 22.0% occurring in the bathroom, 14.7% in the bedroom, and 10.4% of falls occurring in the kitchen.
However, most falls are preventable when older adults remove hazards from their homes and increase their strength and balance. The UDOH recommends six basic steps to reduce the risk of falls:
- Begin a regular exercise program. Exercise improves strength and balance, as well as coordination. Many of the state’s local Area Agencies on Aging and local health departments offer classes specifically designed to reduce the risk of falling. To sign up for a free class near you, call 888-222- 2542 or visit www.livingwell.utah.gov.
- Make your home safer. Remove tripping hazards like throw rugs and clutter in walkways and stairs. Install grab bars next to your toilet and shower.
- Talk to your health care provider. Ask your doctor if you are at risk of falling. Your doctor also needs to know if you’ve fallen in the past so he or she can help you determine what prevention steps are needed to stay independent.
- Have your health care provider review your medicines. Some medicines or combinations of medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy and cause you to fall.
- Have your vision and hearing checked. Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling. It’s also important that you can hear properly, as your eyes and ears are key to keeping on your feet.
- Talk to your family members. Remember, falls aren’t just a seniors’ issue. Ask your family and friends for help in taking simple steps to stay safe.
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Violence & Injury Prevention Program