By Joan Koczor
Falls are a real and growing risk to older adults’ health and independence and, in some cases, to their very lives. Falls can cause serious injury that can threaten independence and even result in death. A common misconception is falling is a natural part of aging and there is nothing you can do to prevent falling. Despite being labeled “accidents,” many falls are preventable and don’t have to be a part of aging.
The Healthy Aging Communications Network states, “Unintentional falls were the leading cause of injury-related mortality among Arizona residents 65 years and older. Accounting for an average of two deaths every day.”
- Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
- Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
- In 2015, the total cost of fall injuries was $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75 percent of these costs.
- The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
A few safeguards you can implement outside the home:
- Use bright outdoor lighting.
- Install handrails on both sides of the stairs.
- Check handrails periodically so see if they are loose or broken.
Inside your home:
- Use night lights.
- In the bathroom, install grab bars by the toilet and shower.
- Use non-skid mats in the tub or shower. Have a light by your bed within easy reach.
- Have a firm chair that has side arms, which can be used as support while you dress.Avoid walking on wet floors.
- Remove throw rugs and other things on the floor that can cause you to trip and fall.
Additional proactive measure you can take to prevent falls include:
- Review your medication with your doctor. Some medicines can make you dizzy or cause other side effects that can cause you to fall.Improve your balance and coordination with regular physical activity.Get yearly vision checkups as poor vision can increase your chance of falling.
This is a small sampling of what you can do to prevent falls.
Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee.
This column appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.