If you care for an aging adult, you know the fear a potential fall brings. It’s not an unwarranted fear. Each year, millions of adults aged 65 and older fall. Falls can cause severe injury and even death.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2013, 2.5 million falls among older adults were treated in emergency rooms, and nearly 30% of the patients were hospitalized. And these were cases are the ones that were reported – less than half of older adults who fall actually report it to their doctor.
Even if no injury is sustained, reporting the fall is important. “A fall is a warning sign as it is considered a symptom of another issue,” said Dr. Carolyn Clevenger of Emory University, president-elect of the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA).
As we age, we may develop poor eyesight, stiff joints, decreased muscle strength, and poor balance. Each of these bring increased risk of falling. Other risks include conditions such as arthritis, cataracts, and neurological disease. A fall may help your loved one’s health care team track the progress of an existing condition, or diagnose a new one.
The good news is that falls can be prevented with some diligence, planning, and help. The CDC reports that older adults can stay independent longer and reduce their risk of falling if they:
• Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medicines—both prescription and over-the-counter—to identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
• Have their eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update their eyeglasses to maximize their vision. Consider getting a pair with single vision distance lenses for some activities such as walking outside.
• Make their homes safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding railings on both sides of stairways, and improving the lighting in their homes.
You can gauge your loved one’s strength and balance and learn exercises to help them correct any deficiencies by watching the video series Prevent Senior Falls: Assessment and Balance Exercises.
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