Fall Prevention for Older Adults

September 21-25 is Fall Prevention Awareness Week.  The purpose of this health observance week is to provide education to people on ways they can prevent falls. 

When diving into the data on falls, you can see why this matter is a public health issue.

The Facts:

  • Thirty million older adults (age 65+) fall each year
  • Each year, 3 million older adults are treated for a fall injury
  • 1 in 5 falls results in a broken bone or head injury
  • 300,000 older adults are hospitalized because of a fall
  • 95% of hip fractures are caused by a fall
  • Every 20 minutes an older adult dies from a fall in the U.S.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019

Although you are more likely to fall as you get older, there are ways to prevent from doing so.

Medication Management

There are medications linked to falls. Some medications may cause sleep deprivation, disorientation, and even a drop in blood pressure. It is important that you practice medication management by taking your medication(s) as prescribed and speaking with your doctor about medication interactions and side effects.

Hearing and Vision


Picture by Williamsje1 from Pixabay

A change in your hearing and vision may cause a fall.  The function of the ear is not only for the sense of hearing, but it is also connected to balance. Hearing is also important so that you can know what is going on in your surroundings.  A small change in hearing decibels increases your likelihood of falling.

Trouble seeing may cause you to miss a step, walk on a slippery surface, or even walk into something. Cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma are a few diseases that impact vision and increases your chances of falling. It’s been shown that removing cataracts from one eye greatly reduces falling.

You should have your hearing and vision checked annually.

Sleep

Aging changes our sleep pattern.  As we age, we spend more time in lighter sleep causing sleep deprivation and a slower reaction time.  Try practicing sleep hygiene to get more sleep.

Exercise

Regularly exercising and being physically active can prevent falls. Strength training builds muscles, flexibility exercises prevent injuries and helps with recovery, balance exercises can make you more agile.  You should create an exercise plan that incorporates all four types of exercise.

Nutrition

Nutrition is important for weight loss and fall prevention. Calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and vitamin K are imperative for bone health.  Foods like low-fat dairy, salmon, collard greens, broccoli, protein, spinach, kale, and fortified breakfast cereals provide nutrients for healthy bones. While some people are encouraged to take over-the-counter vitamins, it is best to get nutrients from foods instead of vitamin capsules.2 

Limit sodium, caffeine, and alcohol as they decrease calcium absorption and lead to bone loss.

Picture by Dana from Pexels

Quick Tips

  • Complete a home risk assessment
  • Carry a cell phone with you
  • Keep a phone on the floor if you are doing floor exercises
  • Get a hearing aid
  • Use a cane or walker
  • Purchase a medical alert system, some detect falls
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Exercise
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers in a visible place
  • Use railings in the shower
  • Remove clutter
  • Watch out for pets
  • Use a step ladder or reaching tool when trying to reach high objects
  • Ask for help
  • Know what to do if you fall
  • Speak with your doctor about your fear or risk of falling

First Picture by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Resources:

National Council on Aging

The NCOA has free resources on fall prevention tips for older adults, videos on how to prevent falls, a list of fall prevention programs, and will host a Fall Prevention Facebook Live event in English on September 23rd and En espanol on September 24th.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – STEADI

The CDC’s STEADI initiative includes information on ways to prevent falls and more.

National Osteoporosis Foundation

NOF has a list of food for bone health.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Keep on Your Feet – Preventing Older Adult Falls. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/older-adult-falls/index.html#:~:text=Every%20second%20of%20every%20day,particularly%20among%20the%20aging%20population.

National Osteoporosis Foundation. (2020). Food and Your Bones – Osteoporosis Nutrition Guidelines. Retrieved from https://www.nof.org/patients/treatment/nutrition/.

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