Seniors: 7 Ways to Prevent Falls from Sacramento Region ExpertsSep 27, 2016 02:12PM ● By Kristen Castillo
Did you know that one in three Americans over the age of 65 falls each year? The National Council on Aging also reports that an older adult dies every 19 minutes from a fall, and every 11 seconds an older adult is seen at an emergency department because of one. The biggest risks include biological problems, like balance and vision; behavioral issues, like inactivity and alcohol use; and environmental factors, like ill-fitting shoes. “The great news is that the majority of all these risks can be reduced,” says Therese ten Brinke, project coordinator for Strategic Initiatives at Eskaton. “Sustaining a fall in the past year is the most important predictor for future falls,” says Ashkan Javaheri, MD, CMD, division head of the Geriatric Division at Mercy Medical Group, explaining contributing factors include gait and balance impairment, arthritis, vision impairment, foot problems, and neurological diseases like stroke and diabetes, as well as medications such as antihistamines and blood pressure drugs. While the statistics are troubling, following the seven tips below will help to ensure you stay safe.
1 / Exercise
J.C. Laverty, RN, MSN, trauma registrar at Marshall Medical Center, says patients can benefit from a balance and strength program, such as Marshall Medical’s “Stepping On” and “A Matter of Balance,” as well as the multi-county coalition, “StopFalls Coalition” chaired by UCDMC.
2 / Turn on lights
“Dim lighting, especially if one’s eyesight is degraded, can lead to not seeing obstacles,” says Lola Rain, director of digital media at Eskaton.
3 / Get vision and hearing exams
Make sure glasses and hearing aids are updated as needed.
4 / Wear appropriate footwear
“Walking barefoot or with socks increases the risk of falls,” says Dr. Javaheri, who recommends seniors wear low-heeled shoes with firm, slip-resistant soles, such as tennis shoes.
5 / Remove fall risks at home
Make your home as safe as possible by installing grab bars and removing throw rugs and other potential tripping hazards.
6 / Don’t be afraid
While a fall may not result in a physical injury, it can be emotionally traumatic. “This fear may cause an elder to disengage from the space or the activity that caused the fall,” says ten Brinke, warning that resulting social isolation and community disengagement can “increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive change, infectious illness and mortality.”
7 / If a fall does happen, don’t keep it a secret
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that less than half of the seniors who fall every year tell their doctor. “It is important to talk with your doctor after a fall to assess your risk of falls and discuss important fall-prevention strategies,” says Laverty.
Fall Prevention Day
Learn more about reducing fall risks at Fall Prevention Day on October 18 from 1:30-4 p.m. at the Placerville Senior Center (937 Spring Street). Hosted by Marshall Medical Center and the El Dorado County Senior Center, the free event will include screenings such as vision, balance/strength and blood pressure, as well as medication reviews and footwear assessments.