Preventing Falls For Older Americans

Getting older is a challenging and sometimes harrowing experience. For Americans over the age of 65, falls are the top cause of deadly injury and hospitalization. Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that roughly one-third of people in this age group will suffer a fall in the next year. These falls account for $30 billion in medical expenses. The problem is particularly acute in Florida, where falls cause fatal injuries among people 65 and older more often than even car crashes. It is important for older adults and for those who care for them to consider what can be done to reduce or eliminate the potential for a serious fall.

There are several steps that older people can take to reduce the likelihood of a deadly slip and fall. Vision problems, deteriorating bone structure and the use of certain medications can all lead to falls. By working with your physician, you can address concerns about bone health and vision and you can discuss which, if any, of your medications may be leading to dizziness or loss of balance. It is more vital than ever for older people to get regular exercise to maintain or improve your coordination and muscle strength. Again, you doctor can help you find an exercise regimen that is safe and effective for you.

Another key tip is to identify hazards in your home. Staircases should have sturdy handrails. Walking paths should be free from obstructions and should be well-lit. Clutter is a common cause of painful falls. When traveling outside, older people should use caution. Slippery or uneven sidewalks, stairs and parking lots are a hazard to everyone, but especially to older people for whom falls are more dangerous.

Source: Tallahassee.com, “Fall Prevention: Tips for Older Adults, Families, and Caregivers,” by Debora Oliveira, 14 November 2012