Falls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injuries in the United States, accounting for approximately 8.9 million visits to the emergency room annually. One in three people over the age of 65 falls each year, many times they are repeat falls.
For many, stability and lack of stability in an aging population is associated with decline in health and often represents potential loss of independence, hence the taboo nature of this topic. Being at risk for falling does NOT have to mean loss of independence, when fall risks are identified before they pose a problem.
What can you do to prevent falls in your home? There are environmental modifiable fall risk factors, which can be addressed in the home: floors, stairs, lighting, safety grab bars, slippery tub or tile. If you are suffering from a medical condition, which causes loss of balance, vertigo or other side effects, which contribute to your risk of falling, those can be addressed as well. Musculoskeletal strengthening for lower extremity weakness can decrease risk of falls, particularly in cases where there is weakness transitioning from positions such as sit to stand.
The American and British Geriatric Societies state, “Multifactorial risk assessment and intervention strategies are effective in decreasing the rate of falls and have similar risk reduction to that of other prevention measures such as statins for cardiovascular disease”.
Those caregivers, children of aging parents or individuals concerned they may be at risk for falling due to stroke, Parkinson’s, recent hospitalization, discharge from rehabilitation or general instability may seek to have a thorough, multi-factorial fall risk assessment performed to determine what areas need to be addressed in order to reduce the risk of falling.
Most importantly, let your health care provider know if you have concerns about falling. Remember, your primary care provider should be involved in your health care, which should include fall prevention. Clinical attention to fall prevention is necessary to ensure optimal fall risk reduction.
Taking the first step to prevent falls, will be your safest step.