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 traumas, and can increase the risk of early death. Fortunately, falls are a public health problem that is largely preventable.
Older adults can remain independent and reduce their chances of falling. They can:
- Exercise 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.
- Ask 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.
- Have 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.
- Make their homes safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding stair railings 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 treated for osteoporosis
What outcomes are linked to falls?
- 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 2000, TBI accounted for 46% of fatal falls among older adults.
- Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls. The most common are fractures of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm, and hand.
- Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities leading to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, which in turn increases their actual risk of falling.
Who is at risk?
- The chances of falling and of being seriously injured in a fall increase with age. In 2009, the rate of fall injuries for adults 85 and older was almost four times that for adults 65 to 74.
- People age 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely than those age 65 to 74 to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer.
- Women are more likely than men to be injured in a fall. In 2009, women were 58% more likely than men to suffer a nonfatal fall injury.
- Rates of fall-related fractures among older women are more than twice those for men.
- Over 90% of hip fractures are caused by falls. In 2007, there were 264,000 hip fractures and the rate for women was almost three times the rate for men.
- White women have significantly higher hip fracture rates than black women.
If you have questions about safety or fall risks, talk with your doctor. InHOME Health also has trained professionals that are available to assess your living environment for safety and fall risks with an order from your doctor. We can offer other information on community resources to assist you.