Today, Americans are living longer while staying active and healthy. But adults 65 and older are at risk for falls, which can signal the beginning of the end of that active life—and their independence. Injuries from falls can lead to limited activity, reduced mobility, loss of fitness, and a fear of falling, all of which increase the risk of additional injury. Falls also are the leading cause of injury-related death for adults age 65 and older, according to Injury Facts 2015, a statistical report on unintentional injuries created by the National Safety Council. This is not surprising considering that falls are among the most common causes of traumatic brain injury. About 29,500 people died from falls in 2013, and the vast majority of them were over age 65.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- One in three older adults fall each year.
- About 2.5 million nonfatal falls were treated in emergency departments in 2013.
- Of those patients, 734,000 people were admitted to the hospital.
- That year, 25,500 older adults died from unintentional falls.
- More than 250,000 hip fractures are reported every year, and 95 percent of those are from falls.
The good news is that falls are preventable. Some of the underlying causes of falls in older adults, such as muscle weakness, medications that cause dizziness, improper footwear, impaired vision, slick floors, poor lighting, loose rugs, clutter, and uneven surfaces, can be addressed to reduce falls.
While falls can happen anywhere, they occur most often at home.
What can you do to make your home or the home of someone you love safer?
- Remove clutter, small furniture, pet gear, electrical cords, throw rugs, and anything else that might cause someone to trip.
- Arrange or remove furniture so there is plenty of room for walking.
- Secure carpets to the floor.
- Wipe up spills immediately.
- Make sure outdoor areas are well-lit and that walkways are smooth and free from ice.
- Use non-slip adhesive strips on stairs.
- Use non-skid mats or appliques in the bath and shower.
- Install grab bars in the tub, shower, and near the toilet.
- Install railings on both sides of stairs.
- Provide adequate lighting in every room and stairway.
- Place nightlights in kitchen, bath, and hallways.
- Make often-used items like food and clothing more accessible so an older person won't be tempted to use a stool or ladder to get to them.
- If necessary, provide personal walking devices, such as a cane or walker, to aid in stability.