People fall all the time – and most of the time we brush ourselves off and resolve to be more careful next time. Unfortunately, 20-30% of older adults who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries that reduce mobility and independence and increase the risk of premature death. But are these falls ‘accidents’ or events that could be prevented?
Falls can be caused by faulty consumer products or products used in a way that was not intended. Chairs are for sitting – not to allow one to reach a high shelf or change a lightbulb. Towel bars and faucets are not designed to be grab bars.
At least one-third of all falls in the elderly involve environmental hazards in the home. The most common hazard for falls is tripping over objects on the floor. Reduce clutter and make sure that electrical and telephone cords are out of the way.
Alcohol is a risk, both alone and combined with medications. Another risk factor is poor vision (including poor lighting). Cataracts and glaucoma alter older people's depth perception, visual acuity, peripheral vision and susceptibility to glare. These limitations hinder their ability to safely negotiate their environment, whether in their own home or in a shopping mall. Young people use visual cues to perceive an imminent fall and take corrective action. Older adults with visual impairments do not have this advantage to the same extent.
A person who has fallen is at great risk to fall again – two-thirds of those who fall will fall again within six months. Don’t wait for the first fall to take action! Failure to exercise regularly results in poor muscle tone, decreased strength, and loss of bone mass and flexibility. Clear out clutter and have grab bars professionally installed. Report side effects of medication and get your eyes checked regularly.
Preventing falls is not just for the elderly. Anyone can be temporarily off her game and not see the electrical cord. Anyone can sprain his ankle and be off balance and trip on the rug. Anyone can lose his mind and try to reach a high object by climbing on furniture.
Tips on preventing falls in the home.
Check for safety