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The first day of Fall is also is Falls Prevention Awareness Day! Although you may think that falling is minor, the fact is that falls can cause serious injuries and death, especially among the elderly. So, it’s important to know the facts about fall-related injuries and tips to prevent falling.

Did You Know?

More than one out of four people over the age of 65 will fall each year.[1] In fact, falls are the number one cause of injuries and death from injury for older Americans.[2] However, only half of the people over 65 who fall actually tell their doctor.[3] Falls account for 3 million emergency department visits, 800,000 hospitalizations, and 28,000 deaths every year.[4]

Fall Prevention Tips

Although falling may seem like a natural part of aging, there are ways to prevent falls.

It is important for you to know these fall prevention strategies and have a plan in case you do fall: 

Talk to your doctor! Let your doctor know if you: [5]

  • Have fallen, worry about falling, or have trouble balancing.
  • Experience any dizziness, drowsiness, or weakness from the medications you are taking.
  • Take the “Stay Independent Assessment” to assess your risk for falling. Talk to your doctor if you score 4 points or more.[6]

Exercise[7]

  • Doing exercises to improve your balance and strengthen your legs helps to lower your risk of falling. If you have fallen recently, talk with your provider before starting an exercise routine. For most people, walking on a level well-paved surface is a good activity to start.  Ask your doctor about incorporating exercises like Ti-Chi into your routine.

Have your eyes and feet checked[8]

  • Have your vision and feet checked once a year.
  • Tell your doctor if you have a condition, such as glaucoma or cataracts, which limits your vision and increases your risk of falling.

Home Safety[9]

  • Declutter your home and remove items that you can easily trip over such as shoes, books, paper, etc.
  • Make sure your rugs have non-slip padding or use double sided tape to keep your rugs from sliding.
  • Place non-slip mats in your bathtub and on your bathroom floors.
  • Have grab bars next to and inside of the tub and next to the toilet.
  • Make sure that you have sturdy banisters along your staircases.
  • Make sure your home is well lit.

What to Do If You Fall

One out of five falls do cause serious injuries such as broken bones or head injuries.[10] If you experience a fall, please let your doctor know as soon as possible. Falling once doubles your risk for falling again.[11] Please let your doctor know if you feel dizzy, unsteady, or have trouble keeping your balance.[12]

Please talk to your doctor and loved ones about what to do if you do fall. An example of a fall preparedness plan is provided below. [13]

If You Fall at Home:

  • Don’t panic – Take a moment to collect yourself
  • Decide if you want to try to get up or not

 

If You Try To Get Up: 

  • Use strong, stable furniture to support you as you get up
  • Rest – Take time to recover from your fall after getting up
  • Tell someone as soon as possible that you fell (doctor, family member, friend)
  • Get medical attention if necessary (especially if you have fallen before and/or have osteoporosis

 

If You Cannot Get Up: 

Crawl or slide to get help if you can. Try to reach one of the following:

  • Phone (your house or landline or a cell phone)
  • Personal alarm device
  • Something to make a loud noise
  • Tell someone that you have fallen and need help.
  • Wait until help arrives. Try to keep as warm and comfortable as possible.
  • Get medical attention

 

Learn more

For more information on falls prevention, please contact the following organizations.

National Institute on Aging

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

National Falls Prevention Resource Center


Sources: 

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, February 10). Home and Recreational Safety. Retrieved August 7, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, September 22). Take a Stand on Falls. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/older-adult-falls/index.html

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, February 10). Home and Recreational Safety. Retrieved August 7, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, September 22). Take a Stand on Falls. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/older-adult-falls/index.html

[5] UMPC. Preventing Falls in the Hospital and at Home. Retrieved August 7, 2018, from http://www.upmc.com/patients-visitors/education/safety/pages/preventing-falls-in-the-hospital-and-at-home.aspx

[6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Stay Independent [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved August 15, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/Stay_Independent_brochure-print.pdf

[7] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, September 22). Take a Stand on Falls. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/older-adult-falls/index.html

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, February 10). Home and Recreational Safety. Retrieved August 7, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html

[11] Ibid.

[12] UMPC. Preventing Falls in the Hospital and at Home. Retrieved August 7, 2018, from http://www.upmc.com/patients-visitors/education/safety/pages/preventing-falls-in-the-hospital-and-at-home.aspx

[13] Ibid.

 

Dr. Larry Wu

About Dr. Larry Wu

Larry Wu, MD is a regional medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and provides consultative services for employee health solutions, prevention, chronic disease, care management, medical expense and utilization management. He is a family physician with over 20 years in clinical practice, has served as clinic director in the Indian Health Service, Kaiser Permanente and Duke Family Medicine and currently maintains a part-time clinical practice.

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