If you are an older adult or care about an older adult, you realize that the fear of falling is real. It’s a rational response to a likely and potentially dangerous event. Too much fear can compromise the physical and mental health of an older person. Both that fear — and falls themselves — can be lessened by taking steps to prevent falling.
One-third of adults 65 and older fall each year in the U.S., says the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Twenty to 30 percent of the falls result in moderate to severe injuries.
These injuries can be everything from fractures (hip, spine, pelvis, arm, leg, to name a few), head trauma, pneumonia, dehydration , hypothermia, cardiac arrest and pressure ulcers (commonly called “bed sores,” caused when a person stays in one position too long). Falls can cause a loss of confidence and self-esteem and reduced independence.
The goods news? Many falls are preventable. Research shows a 30 percent reduction in falls for individuals who focus on prevention. Here are some steps you can take:
1) Pay attention to your balance and movement. Using equipment such as a cane or walker — or perhaps grab bars in your shower — can keep you from losing your balance.
2) Medications can cause falling. Review all of your medications (including over-the-counter and herbal remedies) with your pharmacist at least annually or whenever you get a new prescription.
3) Look around your home for home hazards. You will enhance your home safety by simply removing scatter rugs and clutter on the floor and adding night lights.
What happens if you are diligent about prevention and still fall? Getting help quickly is vital. Putting a personal response system in your home is one way to call for immediate help if you are unable to get to your telephone. Some personal response systems offer a fall detector built in to a light, waterproof pendant worn around the neck.
Written by: Deb Valley, Manager, Fairview Response Services
For more information, call Deb Valley, Fairview Lifeline manager, at 952-885-6186. Or, you may get more information on the Web at fairview.org/lifeline, which includes an inquiry form to submit questions.