February 2nd, 2017
Unintentional falls are never good at any age, but are far riskier for the elderly. With millions of people 65 and older falling every year, and over 800,000 patients hospitalized annually with serious fall injuries such as head or hip fractures, it is more important than ever to understand why falls happen and how they can be prevented.
Research has identified many conditions – called risk factors – that contribute to falling. These risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls, and include: lower body weakness; Vitamin D deficiency; difficulties with walking and balance; and use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. In addition, hazards such as vision problems, foot pain or poor-fitting footwear; and home hazards or dangers such as broken or uneven steps, throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over, and the absence of handrails along stairs or in the bathroom can all lead to accidental falling.
Thankfully, there are steps that can be taken to help keep your loved ones from falling, and also protect them should they fall. These include following the suggestions on Home Safety mentioned in this month’s other blog entry; starting a program of low-impact exercise, such as Tai Chi, that can help strengthen legs and improve balance; scheduling a medication review with the family physician and/or an eye exam; and, perhaps for the most peace-of-mind of all, investing in a Medical Alert device or system for automatic contact with emergency ambulatory services.