Falls are the leading cause of injuries for older Americans and they can lead to the loss of independence. One in four Americans over the age of 65 fall each year leading to more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments and one out of five falls causes a serious injury. Falls are normally caused by a combination of risk factors:
- Lower body weakness
- Vitamin D. deficiency
- Difficulty walking and balance (do you use medical equipment appropriately?)
- Use of medicines that can affect balance or that may affect how steady you are on your feet.
- Vision problems
- Foot pain or poor footwear
- Home hazards:
- Broken or uneven steps
- Throw rugs or clutter that you can trip over.
To avoid serious injury, fall prevention should be a priority for adults over the age of 65. A few examples of how to prevent falls can include:
- Talk to your doctor – evaluate your risk for falls and review your medications
- Keep moving – discuss appropriate exercises with your provider
- Check your vision – schedule an eye exam
- Make your home safe:
- Remove loose rugs from the floor. Many falls are caused by someone tripping on a rug.
- Clear pathways. Keep the most commonly used pathways clear of tripping hazards.
- Keep pathways well-lit. It’s easy to trip on something you can’t see. Make sure pathways stay well-lit so even late-night trips to the bathroom are safe.
- Sudden movements can sometimes cause a change in your blood pressure which may cause you to be unsteady on your feet.
If you are concerned about falls, talk to your primary care provider. They can offer advice and guide you to local support services that can help you or your loved one age well. Your provider can recognize signs and symptoms of illnesses that may affect your stability, suggest appropriate exercise or therapy, and check to make sure medications are working as they should.
Angela Thomas is a clinical nurse specialist for Cone Health and a part of the care management team that supports Triad HealthCare Network. She received her Bachelor of Science in nursing from Winston-Salem State University and her Master of Science in nursing from Walden University in Minnesota.