Did you know that falls are the leading cause of injury for adults ages 65 years and older? Well, it’s true – approximately 1 in 4 older adults, that’s more than 14 million men and women, report falling every year.
These falls often cause serious, even fatal, injuries and are a major threat to senior independence and safety. Check out these additional statistics about elderly falls:
●Falls result in more than 3 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations.
●Each year about $754 million is spent on medical costs related to fatal falls.
●The cost of treating injuries caused by falls is projected to increase to over $101 billion by 2030.
●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.
The good news is, however, that falling does not have to an inevitable consequence of aging. Through lifestyle adjustments and education, seniors can learn to avoid dangerous falls.
The Most Common Reasons Why Senior Falls Occur
Falls among seniors occur for a variety of reasons, here are some common reasons why senior falls occur:
●Age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, can result in weaker leg muscles, reducing an individual's ability to recover from a stumble or prevent a fall.
●Poor vision, cataracts, glaucoma, and other eye conditions can impair depth perception and the ability to detect obstacles or hazards, increasing the risk of falls.
●Many seniors take multiple medications, some of which can cause side effects like dizziness, drowsiness, or lightheadedness, making them more susceptible to falls.
●Conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and neurological disorders can affect mobility, balance, and coordination, increasing the risk of falls.
●Tripping hazards in the home, such as loose rugs, clutter, poor lighting, and slippery surfaces, can contribute to falls. Environmental hazards are a significant factor in senior falls.
●Foot pain, bunions, or ill-fitting shoes can affect balance and mobility, making falls more likely.
●Seniors may be at risk of dehydration, which can lead to dizziness, weakness, and fainting, all of which can contribute to falls.
●Conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia can affect memory, decision-making, and awareness of one's surroundings, making falls more likely.
●Ironically, seniors who have experienced a fall may become afraid of falling again. This fear can lead to reduced physical activity and social isolation, which can further weaken muscles and increase the risk of falls.
How Seniors Can Prevent Falls & Maintain Good Health
Preventing senior falls involves addressing the previously listed risk factors through a combination of strategies, including regular exercise to improve strength and balance, medication management, vision checks, home safety assessments and modifications, and education about fall prevention.
Here is more in-depth information about how seniors can dramatically reduce their risk of falls and maintain their independence and well-being:
●Engage in regular physical activity to improve strength, balance, and flexibility. Exercise programs like tai chi, yoga, and water aerobics can be particularly beneficial.
●Consult with a healthcare provider or pharmacist to review medications and their potential side effects. Adjustments or changes in medications may be necessary to reduce the risk of dizziness or drowsiness.
●Get regular eye exams to ensure optimal vision. Corrective lenses, cataract surgery, or other treatments can help improve vision and reduce the risk of falls.
●Keep chronic health conditions well-managed through regular check-ups and adhering to treatment plans. Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis can affect balance and mobility.
●Pay attention to foot health by wearing well-fitting, supportive footwear. Foot pain or conditions like bunions can affect balance and increase the risk of falls.
●Conduct a home safety assessment to identify and address potential hazards. Install handrails, secure rugs, eliminate clutter, and improve lighting to create a safe living environment.
●If recommended by a healthcare provider, use assistive devices such as canes, walkers, or wheelchairs to aid mobility and stability.
●Use non-slip mats and grab bars in the bathroom to prevent slips and falls. Consider a raised toilet seat or shower chair for added safety.
●Explore community-based programs and resources that offer fall prevention classes, exercise groups, and educational workshops.
Fall prevention is a multi-faceted approach that involves a combination of lifestyle changes, environmental modifications, and regular healthcare assessments. Tailoring fall prevention strategies to an individual's specific needs and circumstances is essential for reducing the risk of falls among seniors.