Each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head injuries, and can increase the risk of early death. Fortunately, falls are largely preventable.
Fast Facts About Fall-Related Injuries
- One out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year, but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it.
- Among older adults (those 65 or older), falls are the leading cause of injury death. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
- In 2010, the direct medical costs of falls, adjusted for inflation, was $30 billion.
- Twenty to thirty percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, or head traumas. These injuries can make it hard to get around or live independently, and increase the risk of early death.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
- In 2009, about 20,400 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries.
- Men are more likely than women to die from a fall. After taking age into account, the fall death rate in 2009 was 34% higher for men than for women.
Older adults can remain independent and reduce their chances of falling by:
- Exercising regularly. It is important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance, and that they get more challenging over time. Tai Chi programs are especially good.
- Asking 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.
- Having 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.
- Making 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.
To lower their hip fracture risk, older adults can:
- Get adequate calcium and vitamin D – from food and/or from supplements.
- Do weight bearing exercise.
- Get screened and, if needed, treated for osteoporosis.
More Fall Prevention Tips
- Use bath mats or non-slip decals in tubs/showers.
- Make sure items are within easy reach.
- Wear shoes with firm nonskid, non-friction soles.
- Wipe up spills quickly.
- Watch out for slippery or uneven floors and doorways.
- Take good care of your feet. If you have pain in your feet or if you’re have large, thick nails and corns, you should have your doctor look at your feet.
- See your doctor if you have dizzy spells.
- If your doctor suggests that you use a cane or walker – please use it. This will give you extra stability when walking and will help you avoid a bad fall.
- Key to getting out of bed: sit on the side of the bed for a few minutes before standing up. Your blood pressure takes some time to adjust when first sitting up.